A. W. PINK ON THE GOSPEL OFFER
Arthur W. Pink, who wrote the excellent book on “The Sovereignty of God”, also wrote a volume entitled “The Satisfaction of Christ,” which treats fully the subject of the Atonement. The present writer has 29 volumes of Pink’s works and has read all but five of them. At one time Pink was a premillennialist and dispensationalist, but long since repudiated his erroneous theology. He is also known for a most excellent work on “Man’s Moral Impotency” and another equally as superb as his work on divine sovereignty entitles, “The Doctrine of Election” written from the supralapsarian position. In his little book “The Comfort of the Christian” he repudiated his former terminology which smacked of conditional theology. This language, however, does appear frequently in his “The satisfaction of Christ”, which, by the way, you ought to take the time to read.
In chapter 22, p. 278, he speaks of God’s “tendering” pardon to all men and “inviting” them to come to Christ. Such terminology is not a mere matter of semantics. A Reformed believer should not become hampered with semantics, nor have no greater depth in his theological expressions than what a semantical basis permits. For that would mean that he stands on the basis of philosophy. Philosophy, of any kind, is no standard. Scripture alone is. Then, too, we need something more than to stick to the usus loquendi. Abroad in the world, the usus loquendi is as changeable as each new age. A new one turns up with each succeeding generation. Grandfather put it this way, “God’s Word must be your standard of faith and practice.” Today’s older generation says, “The most important thing in the world is to have high ideals.” The younger generation says, “You must have some sense of direction.” The thing is, we need the usus loquendi of Scripture. But much of the older and the younger generation since Grandfather’s day look at you like a visitor from outer space when you use that profound but much needed simple language.
Now the terms “tendering” and “inviting” suggest that God makes a sort of take-it-or-leave-it offer of pardon. It implies that it is in the power of man to be regenerated or remain unregenerate. The Lord does not tender pardon the way a friend or an acquaintance might tender me a sandwich. When he makes this move to me he is not sure whether I will accept it and I very well may not, even if hungry. I may kindly but ever so firmly refuse it. But does God so subject Himself to the contingencies of man? An “invitation” is an offer, which by the very nature of what it, I have the right to accept or reject. But no one has the right to reject Christ. An invitation even provides for the possibility of declining it. If the President tenders me an invitation to be present at the White House for the reception of, let us say, certain Communist officials or certain National Council of Churches leaders, he not only provides me with an opportunity to enjoy (?) the occasion as an actual eye-witness, but with an “out” in case I can’t make it, or don’t care to accept. But if the legal authority summoned me I could not decline for any reason! When the court summons, you had better be there. Now when the Almighty God summons, men come. When He draws them they run after Him.
In Scripture the word is not “invite,” but “bade,” “bidden” which mean “commanded.” An invitation is neither a command nor an effectual call. The use of a good concordance will show that the term “offer” and “offering” do not have to do with any tendering of the Gospel, but with the sacrifices of Jehovah’s worship. We do use the term, offer (Lat., offere) but use it in the sense of “to present.” In that sense God offers the Gospel to all promiscuously. He presents it to the reprobate. They hear it, see it, but despise it and turn from it. But it is not Scriptural to say that the Lord gives men a chance to accept or reject this offer. That is an Arminian twist. God does not give men a chance to reject Christ! Sometimes, however, it is so propounded as though it were good news that men can reject Him! That is not the good news. That is, if I ever heard, bad news! Yet, man left to himself will do but one thing, reject Christ and the Gospel preached to him. He will never receive it.
On p. 280 Pink says, “Remission of sins is freely promised to all who thus comply with it” (i.e., with His divine revelation, RCH). This is a fine statement and means that remission is promised only to the elect, for they are the only ones “who thus comply.” It would not be correct to say that “remission is freely tendered to all,” as though God holds it out to passer-by with the hope that some, or as many as (humanly?) possible will take it. It is not Scriptural language to speak of the Gospel as a tender of salvation. The Gospel is no tender. Therefore, speak not of “the indiscriminate tender of pardon” (p. 281), but rather of the indiscriminate proclamation of pardon. The Lord’s servant is not to throw out the Gospel like peanuts at a Sunday School picnic for grabs. But he is to make a general proclamation of a very particular Gospel. Speak not of “proffered mercy.” Pink learned to avoid such vocabulary. “Whosoever will” does not suggest a “proffer.” The “whosoever wills” are the elect. They alone ever will believe and come. That the proclamation of the gospel is real and sincere is true, but that sincerity does not embody the divine will that the reprobate savingly hear, believe and be saved. God really, sincerely and universally proclaims the particular truth that Jesus will save His people from their sins. He calls upon all men everywhere to repent, including the reprobate, but upon the latter not to give them the grace to repent, but to impress on them what they owe Him.
On pp. 282-283 there is a long quotation from A. A. Hodge where he speaks of the preaching of the Gospel as a broadcast offer that if you believe you shall be saved. Hodge in this quotation does make an excellent point in favor of limited atonement. It would be better, however, to have said that God makes a broadcast proclamation that whosoever believeth shall be saved. God commands all men to believe and He calls efficaciously the elect, the heavy laden, the poor in spirit, the beloved ones to believe. All men including those ordained to condemnation are held accountable to believe, even though they cannot, will not and may not (have no more the right!). Still they must! The can, the will and the may are lost in Adam. But the must remains. It is much better to say, as he does on p. 288, that “the business of the preacher is not to ‘offer’ Christ to sinners, but to ‘preach’ Him.” But this contradicts the instances where Pink speaks of a “tender” an “offer” or “proffered mercy” (pp. 278, 281-283). Nor do I agree with Pink when he writes that Christ is a third party (pp. 44, 45, 300).
You may note in this book that Pink holds that “a condition” to be performed by man denies total depravity and renders salvation merely possible (p. 121), not actual. He calls a “conditional sufficiency” empty (p. 256). He says there is no conditional necessity relative to the atonement (ibid.). He claims that a conditional atonement is no atonement (p. 129). He states that to make faith a condition is a mistake (p. 155). He points out that Christ’s purchase is not a condition (p. 247) and therefore, not a mere possible salvation, that an “offer” is trifling (p. 265), that an “offer” (p. 257) does no good, that the work of the Holy Spirit is no “offer” (121, 246), that the preacher is not to offer Christ (257, 288), that the atonement is not an at-one-ment, a Christian Scientist idea (58), that Christ suffered all His life (64, 85-86-87, 118), that Scripture teaches “immediate regeneration” (155). He teaches that man cannot be a party in the covenant (124), that nothing is left to contingency (128) and that the love of God to all men is denied by history (p. 259) as well as by Scripture. To all of this we heartily agree.
Pink also has one of the best pieces of writing on “the responsibility of man” that there was (1) original responsibility (in paradise), then after the fall of Adam, (2) a failed responsibility, next, in Christ and His cross, (3) a transferred responsibility, and finally (4) also in Christ a restored responsibility. This volume contains the exact opposite of the “conditional theology” so prevalent now in some of the churches bearing the name “Reformed”. And how unlike the slant at man’s responsibility taken by the “conditional theology” people! Pink does not really believe that faith and repentance are conditions, even from man’s point of view. For these two virtues do not condition the covenant, or the promise. They are guaranteed by the covenant and are included in the promise. If they were conditions, they would have to be to man a native something, whereas they are exotic. They do not originate in man. Both faith and repentance are the gifts of God. (Acts 5; 11). Man, elect in the eternal counsel of God certainly must believe in order to be saved. God ordains the means as well as the end. And of course such a man, not God, believes, but he believes only through grace (Acts 18:27) and not because he puts forth the exercise of faith by the power of his own will (Rom. 9:16). It is the gift of God. The Lord gives a new heart, then we live. He makes us new creatures, then we live in good works. He gives faith, then we believe. He regenerates, then we live as children of God. He takes us out of death into life, then we hear and believe (John 5:24). To put faith before and necessary to regeneration is un-Reformed. Pink did straighten out his faulty theology before he died. Would that others calling themselves “Reformed” would do the same!