Psalm 69 Versus the Free Offer
Rev. Angus Stewart
In the very first sentence of his article, "The Free
Offer of the Gospel," John Murray succinctly identifies the key issue in
the debate: "It would appear that the real point in dispute in
connection with the Free Offer of the gospel is whether it can properly
be said that God desires the salvation of all men" (Collected
Writings, vol. 4, p. 113; italics Murray’s).
"All men" includes the elect and the reprobate, those
whom "God was pleased … to pass by, and to ordain … to dishonour and
wrath for their sin, to the praise of his glorious justice" (Westminster
"Salvation" surely includes the blessings of union
with Christ, regeneration, calling, justification, adoption,
sanctification, preservation, and glorification (blessings given only to
the elect; Rom. 8:29-30).
John Murray rightly argues that if God desires to
give the reprobate the end (the blessings of salvation), He must also
desire to give them the means to that end, namely repentance and faith:
"It amounts to the same things to say ‘God desires their salvation’ as
to say ‘He desires their repentance’" (p. 114).
Thus the question is: Does the true God desire to
save the reprobate? That is, does God desire to unite the reprobate to
Christ and regenerate, call, justify, adopt, sanctify, preserve and
glorify them? Does He desire to give the reprobate repentance and faith:
What saith the Scriptures?
Matthew 27:34, 48 (and the parallel passages in the
other gospel accounts) prove that Jesus Christ is speaking in Psalm
69:21: "They gave me vinegar to drink." Christ proceeds to pray against
the reprobate or non-elect (v. 28). He prays. "Let their eyes be
darkened, that they see not" (v. 23; illumination or knowledge is part
of faith [Eph. 3:17-19]). "Add iniquity unto their iniquity: and let
them not come into thy righteousness" (v. 27; righteousness is a gift in
justification and in sanctification). He prays to God for their
everlasting ruin: "Pour out thine indignation upon them, and let thy
wrathful anger take hold of them" (v. 24). So far is Jesus from desiring
the salvation of the reprobate that He prays that they not be justified
or sanctified (v. 27), and that they be damned for their sins and not
glorified (v. 24), and that they not be given faith (v. 23).
Remember, these prayers (which oppose the error of
the Free Offer) are placed upon our Saviour’s lips as He hung upon the
cross, when "they gave him vinegar to drink" (v. 21).
Some who hold to the free offer agree that Psalm 69
presents Christ’s will that the enemies of the Messiah be destroyed.
Thus they believe that that God desires to condemn the reprobate, and He
desires to save them (but does not). Yet Job says of God "what his soul
desireth, even that he doeth" (23:13). If "A double minded man is
unstable in all his ways" (James 1:8), what about a double minded god
who desires two contradictory things? Advocates of the free offer
respond that the (alleged) "two ‘wills’ in God" are at two "levels." But
God has only one will and there are no "levels" in Him, for He is one
and in no respect two (Deut. 6:4).
Those who believe that God desires to save the
reprobate argue for their position from Christ’s prayer in Luke 23:34:
"Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." But did this
include the reprobate? Some of Christ’s oppressors had sinned against
the Holy Spirit (Matt. 12:31-32). Christ could not have prayed for them,
according to I John 5:16. Earlier Christ had prayed, "Father … thou
hearest me always" (John 11:41-42). Did God, who always heard
Christ, fail to answer His prayer of Luke 23:34, even in part? Moreover,
Christ said just hours before the cross, "I pray not for the
world, but for them which thou hast given me" (John 17:9). Christ’s
intercession, like His atonement upon which it is based, is always
particular and efficacious (Rom. 8:34). His prayer of Luke 23:34 was
answered in the salvation of the penitent thief and thousands in
Jerusalem (Acts 2:41; 4:4).
The Christ of God loves, desires to save and died for
His church (Eph. 5:25), and wills the destruction of the reprobate (Ps.
69:22-28). This Christ must be preached and all must urgently be
exhorted to repent and believe in Him.