Cheung: There is No Sincere Offer of the Gospel

“The doctrine in question has been called “the free offer,” “the well-meant offer,” and “the sincere offer” of the gospel.  It is a false teaching that makes God into a schizophrenic fool. It is unbiblical and irrational, and it must be opposed.

We do not know beforehand who are numbered among the elect and who are numbered among the non-elect, and Scripture commands us to preach to every person.  Therefore, we must not try to decide who are the elect and the non-elect, and then preach the gospel only to those whom we consider the elect.  We must preach the gospel to all men.

That said, it is wrong to preach the gospel as if there is a chance for the non-elect to obtain faith and be saved, as if God is sincerely telling them that he desires their salvation and that they could be saved (Luke 10:21; John 6:65).  We do not know the content of God’s decree in election in terms of who are the elect and who are the non-elect, and so we must not act as if we know, but it does not follow that we should speak as if he has not made such a decree when we preach the gospel.

In our preaching, we must make it clear that God commands every person, whether elect or non-elect, to believe the gospel, thus testifying to every person’s obligation to believe – those who do will be saved, and those who do not will be damned.  However, we must not present this as a “sincere offer” of salvation from God even to the non-elect.

Faith is God’s sovereign gift, and God has decided to withhold it from the non-elect, but instead he chooses to harden them; therefore, to offer salvation to the non-elect as if God desires them to be saved and as if it is possible for them to be saved would be to lie to them in God’s name. There is no offer of salvation to the non-elect, but only a command that they can never obey, and God will punish them with hellfire.

This does not prevent us from preaching the gospel to all men, since it is not our duty or right to pick out the elect and preach only to them, or to pick out the non-elect and exclude them.  The point is that we must not present the gospel as a sincere offer to all, as if God’s “desire” can differ from his decree, as if God could or would decree against his “desire,” and as if it is possible for even the non-elect to be saved.

God loves the elect and desires (and thus has decreed) their salvation; he hates the reprobates and desires (and thus has decreed) their damnation (Romans 9:13).  The preaching of the gospel must be consistent with this.  So we must present the gospel as a serious command to all, as if it is required of all to believe (Acts 17:30), and as if God intends to summon the elect and harden the non-elect by the same preaching of the gospel (2 Corinthians 2:15-16).

Thus we must preach the gospel to all men for at least three reasons: 1. God commands us to preach the gospel to all people, 2. We do not know and should not consider beforehand who are the elect and who are the reprobates, and 3. The purpose of preaching the gospel is not only to summon the elect to faith, but also to harden the reprobates in their unbelief.

Although the topic might not always come up, it is not wrong to announce that God desires to save only the elect and has chosen only them for salvation, and that he will grant faith only to them, so that only they can believe.  And it is not wrong to announce that God desires to damn the reprobates and has chosen them for damnation, and that he will not only withhold faith from them, but that he will also harden their minds against the gospel, making it impossible for them to believe.

Just as we cannot determine beforehand who are the elect and who are the reprobates when we preach the gospel, our hearers must not try to determine for themselves whether they are among the elect or the reprobates, and then make that the basis as to whether they should call on God for salvation.  When one hears the gospel, he should not say, “God saves only the elect, and I am probably among the reprobates, so it is pointless for me to seek God.”  In fact, if one stubbornly thinks this way even when given a clear explanation of the gospel, this is an indication that he is indeed one of the reprobates, and God has chosen to establish this person in his damnation by means of this persistent deception.

Rather than concealing God’s decree from our hearers, we should explain the truths concerning sin and grace, and concerning election and reprobation.  More than that, we should present to them the whole system of biblical doctrines, as clearly and fully as possible (Acts 17:23-31; Matthew 28:19-20; Luke 14:27-33).  Then, we must admonish them to seek God for salvation through Jesus Christ.

Since it is impossible for people to truly seek God unless his power is already at work in their hearts, those who sincerely call out to God to save them by Jesus Christ are among the elect, and God has already started his work of conversion in them.  Those who insincerely or superficially obey, and who after a while fall away, or those who refuse to come at all, are among the non-elect, whose minds God has hardened even more by the preaching of the gospel (2 Corinthians 2:15-16; 2 Thessalonians 1:8).

Therefore, in rejecting the so-called “sincere offer” of the gospel, the preaching of the gospel is not diminished or rendered narrow and selective.  Instead, our doctrine is a consistent and necessary application of Scripture concerning the sovereignty of God, election and reprobation, and the preaching of the gospel.  It is a biblical and coherent view that values the preaching of the gospel, and indeed the propagation of the whole system of biblical doctrines, to all men everywhere.  Moreover, it acknowledges what Scripture teaches about the purpose and the effect of the preaching of the gospel, that is, to summon the elect and to harden the reprobates.

The biblical doctrine is straightforward.  There is no “sincere offer.”  God commands men everywhere to repent – the ones chosen for salvation will obey and be saved, but the ones chosen for damnation will disobey and be damned.  By God’s active decree and control, the reprobates are already sinful and prepared for hell, and their rejection of the gospel increases that guilt, and this is what God wants to happen”

– Vincent Cheung, The Author of Sin, pp. 30-32, 38

But see The Universal Call of the Gospel Requires Universal Provision/Unlimited Atonement