Gospel Preaching 3

Secondly, God does offer Christ to lost sinners without respect to price or person. He invites them that have no money to come and buy wine and milk {that is to say, Christ} without price. {Isa.55:1} And anyone that will are invited to take Christ freely. “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life {that is, Christ} freely.” {Rev.22:17} Hanserd Knolly (Baptist, 1645)

This particular part of Gospel preaching can be quite confusing as seen by how much people differ on this issue today. The concept of offering Christ is thought to be the distinction between Calvinism and hyper-Calvinism. The majority in today’s world would say that unless one offers Christ as they define it then one is a hyper-Calvinist. They are free to use that term as they will, but perhaps they are too hasty in their generalizations. Whatever the designation or name one is called one must be biblical in the approach.

The first thing to note in what Knolly says is that God offers Christ. This is a very, very important point. Some of the older writers would say that the preacher is to preach Christ and not offer Him. They said this because we are commanded to preach Christ, not offer Him. If we offer Christ we have stopped preaching Christ and as such we stop doing what is commanded to do what is not commanded. But the point stands from the text itself. God offers Christ to lost sinners. So the least we can say (following Knolly) is that during Gospel preaching God Himself is offering Christ. But of course what it means to offer Christ is a thorny issue. Does it mean, as so many today say it does, to tell sinners that God loves them, wants them to be saved, and so He tells them to believe on Him? I would argue that it does not mean that. The Latin word for “offer” (offero) means to set forth, proclaim, bestow, exhibit and so on. I would argue that it is the Latin background that makes more sense than the modern way. I would also argue that in the context given by Knolly (seen in the next few posts in this series) that is how he means it.

If we take this seriously, we would have to say that no preacher has ever been commanded to offer Christ to sinners as if they could take Him of their own power and will. Is Christ really for men to offer in the modern way? Instead, when a preacher has been called by God and is preaching by the Spirit of God then we can say that God is speaking through that man. When the preacher is preaching Christ in truth and spirit, there is a sense in which God is offering Christ to sinners. Knolly goes on to say that “God does offer Christ to lost sinners without respect to price or person.” Once again, there are some very important points here.

The first point is that God offers Christ to lost sinners. In this context it has to do with sinners who know that they are lost. This is not only an important point, it is a vital point. Not all sinners see themselves as lost. As the context of Isaiah sets out, only those who have been broken to the point of seeing that they have no righteousness and no ability to do good are those that God offers Christ to. Those who cling to their own merit and their own ability to choose when they please are not really lost in their own minds. Those who think that they have any merit of their own or any ability to take Christ as they please have money to buy, yet it is those who have no money and not price that the text says are offered Christ. This is such an important point. Sinners must be at the place where they understand and feel themselves as lost before they will come to Christ. Sinners must be at the place where they understand and feel that they have no merit before they will truly come to Christ.

It is very true that all who truly want Christ are invited by God to take Him freely, but I would also argue that in His invitation there is the efficacious call. This is why preachers are to preach Christ and Him crucified as the core and center of all their preaching. It is in preaching Christ that God Himself offers and brings lost sinners to Himself. Preachers must learn to preach Christ in such a way that they deal with sinners and show them how utterly lost that they are and that they have no ability and no merit before God. But instead, preachers plead with sinners to come to Christ before they are lost sinners and before they have been broken from trusting in their own merits and abilities.

But there are sinners out there who are lost and who are poor and needy sinners and they are being overlooked by the preachers of today. They sit there without merit and ability with nothing to bring to Christ and they are told that they must believe, yet they cannot do so. But the preachers have stopped preaching Christ to them at that point and they are offering Christ. Oh no, sinners need to hear the wonders of Christ proclaimed and how He freely saves sinners quite apart from their merit or worth. Lost sinners and saved sinners must hear of God manifested in Christ and the glory of God in Christ. In a very real sense when preachers start offering Christ themselves they have stopped preaching Christ to the lost sinners and so God is not speaking to the lost sinners (as such). This means that the preachers are offering Christ in an unbiblical way to those who don’t see themselves as lost. The freeness and wonder of the Gospel is to those who don’t have money and without anything to hold to but Christ. Preachers must preach this Christ and never turn from preaching this Christ. Preachers must set forth this glorious Christ to the thirsty and the hungry because in setting Him forth in that way Christ will be seen as the bread of heaven and sinners will feed on Him rather than on their own merits and abilities.

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