My dear friends, the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is the most joyful message that has ever been heard in this world, the good news from the far country of heaven is like none other. Now many will agree that the gospel is to be preached to all men, however some will then disagree with what is called the ‘free offer of the gospel’. These men do not believe that Jesus Christ is to be freely offered to the sinner in the gospel. I myself wholeheartedly and unreservedly believe in the free offer of the gospel. Consider for a moment again those words of the angel. “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people". Now if Christ be not freely offered to the sinner as one who is willing and able to save them, how can the gospel be a message of great joy for them personally? The sinner needs to be persuaded that it is a joyful message for them, therefore Christ must be freely and sincerely offered to them.
Ebenezer Erskine was born in Dryland, Scotland, in 1680. In his life he battled hard for, and also passionately wrote on the free Offer of the Gospel. Below is a helpful extract from; ‘The beauties of Ebenezer Erskine’, concerning arguments to urge sinners to Embrace Christ. May the gospel minister, like Ebenezer Erskine, be unashamed of the free offer of the gospel, and urge sinners to embrace Christ in the gospel.
1. Consider the absolute need ye have of this Christ whom we offer unto you. Without Him ye are condemned already; without Him ye are without God in the world; God is angry with you every day; the law and justice of God, like the avenger of blood, is pursuing you. And therefore, O sinners, flee to a Saviour, “Turn ye to your strong-hold, ye prisoners of hope”, Zechariah 9:12.2.
2. Consider the matchless excellency of that Saviour whom we call you to embrace. Angels and men are at an everlasting stand to speak of His worth and glory; He is best known by His own or His Father's testimony concerning Him: and if ye would know the record of God concerning Him, search the Scriptures, for these are they that testify of Him; it is in this glass that “we behold His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth”, John 1:14. I despair that ever a sinner will embrace Christ, till there be an up-taking of His personal excellency, as Immanuel God-man. There is a seeing of the Son, which, in order of nature, although not in order of time, goes before the soul's believing in Him, John 6:40.3.
3. Consider the ability and sufficiency of this Saviour whom we call you to embrace. Take the Father's testimony of His ability, Psalm 89:20, “I have laid help upon one that is mighty”. Take His own testimony, Isaiah 63:1, “I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save”. Take the Spirit's testimony, in the mouth of the apostle Paul, Hebrews 7:25, declaring Him “able to save them to the uttermost, that come unto God by Him”. Thus ye have the three that bear record in Heaven, attesting the sufficiency of the Saviour. O then, “set to your seal, that God is true, by believing the record that God gives of His Son”, John 3:33; for if ye do not, your unbelief gives the lie unto a whole Trinity, 1 John 5:10,11.4.
4. Consider that this sufficient Saviour is “the sent of God”. This is a designation given to Christ thirty or forty times in the gospel according to John, and the ordinary argument with which Christ persuades sinners to embrace and receive Him. And nothing could have greater influence than this designation, if the weight of it were but duly weighed. O consider in what quality and capacity His Father hath sent Him: shall not God's Ambassador-extraordinary get a hearing among a company of condemned rebels? He is sent as a Redeemer to liberate captives; and shall not captives embrace Him? He is sent as a Surety; and will not bankrupts embrace a cautioner? He is sent as Physician; and will not the wounded and diseased sinner embrace Him, and His healing balm?
5. Consider, that His heart and arms are open and ready to embrace all that are willing to be embraced by Him. O may the soul say, fain will I embrace Him, but I doubt of His willingness to embrace me. I tell you good news, He is more willing to embrace you by far than you are to be embraced by Him. He says He is willing, and you may believe His word, for He is “the Amen, the faithful and true witness”, Revelation 3:14, and He says, that He will cast out none that come unto Him: He swears He is willing, and will ye not believe His oath? Ezekiel 33:11, “As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live”. Pray tell me, why did He engage from eternity, and voluntarily give His hand to the Father in the council of peace, saying, “Lo, I come; - I delight to do Thy will, O My God?” Why did He assume the nature of man, and the sinless infirmities thereof? Why did He, as the great Law-giver, subject Himself unto His own law? Why did He that is the Lord of life and glory, submit to the stroke of death ignominiously upon a cross? Why doth He send out His ministers to you, with call upon call? Why doth He wait all the day long, saying, “Behold Me, behold Me?” Why doth He expostulate the matter with you? Why is He grieved at the obstinacy of your hearts, if He be not willing that ye should embrace Him? For the Lord's sake therefore consider these things, and do not reject the counsel of God against yourselves. Ye have a full, free, and unhampered offer of Him in the external call of the gospel; and this directed to every one of you without exception, Isaiah 55:1-3, Revelation 22:17, Mark 16:15 and Proverbs 8:4.
Sirs we offer a Christ to you, and the whole fullness of grace and glory, merit and Spirit, that is in Him, as the free gift of God, without the money and price of your own good works and qualifications; if ye bring any such price, to make a purchase of the pearl of great price, ye shall lose Him for ever: God loves to give His Christ freely, but He scorns to receive anything for Him. Let this then be your warrant, that Christ is gifted and offered of God in this gospel: and let it be remembered that in the matter of a gift, there is no difference between man and man; the poorest as well as the richest, may receive a gift presented unto him: a condemned malefactor has as a good a right to receive a gift presented unto Him by the king, as the greatest favourite in the court; his being a guilty criminal is no prejudice at all to his receiving a gift; yea, his being so, qualifies him for receiving the pardon. So here Christ's being the gift of God freely offered and presented, warrants the sinner to receive Him, without respect to any qualifications but that of his being a sinner. Hunger is the best disposing qualification for meat, nakedness fits a man for clothing, etc. And that Christ seeks no other qualifications is evident from His counsel to Laodicea, Revelation 3:17,18, “Thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked. I counsel thee to buy of Me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eye-salve that thou mayest see”.
Besides the command of God, ye have a promise of welcome to encourage you in believing, John 6:37, “Him that cometh to Me, I will in no wise cast out”. John 3:16, “Whosoever believeth in Him, shall not perish, but have everlasting life”. But, say ye, these promises may be to others, and not to me. I answer, The promise is indorsed to you, directed to you, in the external call and dispensation of the gospel, Acts 2:39. There the apostle is preaching to a company of men, whose hands had lately been dipped in the blood of the Son of God. He calls them to faith and repentance. By what arguement does he enforce the exhortation? Why, he tells them, “The promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call”. Where it is plain, the promise is extended, first to the Jews, and then to the Gentiles, who at that time were afar off; and then indefinitely, both to Jew and Gentile, to whom the call of the gospel should reach; the external call which is only here intended, howsoever, the Spirit of the Lord did internally concur, being the alone foundation upon which the promise is to be received, and not the internal call of one person, which can never be a warrant of believing to another. And therefore, as the apostle said to them, so say I to you, in the name of God, “the promise is unto you”, I mean, the promise of welcome: “Whosoever of you believeth, shall not perish” This promise in not made to believers exclusively of others, but to everyone that hears this gospel; for if so, we could call none to believe but such as have believed, which is most absurd.
Well then, let God's promise warrant you to believe in Christ: and if ye do not think this sufficient, take His promise of welcome, ratified with His oath, Ezekiel 33:11, these being the “two immutable things wherein it is impossible for God to lie”.
Rev. Malcolm Watts (Emmanuel Church, Salisbury) and Rev. David Silversides (Loughbrickland Reformed Presbyterian Church) have also written helpful articles on this subject.