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• The Duty-Faith And Free-Offer Issue

One of the reasons many Reformed believers assert it is the duty of all sinners to savingly believe on Christ is because they distinguish between the covenant of redemption and the covenant of grace. They believe the covenant of redemption was made between the Father, the Son and the Spirit from eternity, whereas the covenant of grace is made between Jehovah and the sinner in time. They view the covenant of redemption as existing in the background of God’s plan for the ages, whereas the covenant of grace is set in the foreground of man’s responsibility for today.

R. C. Sproul outlined this view in his book, “What Is Reformed Theology”. He explained Reformed Theology is primarily concerned with three major covenants—the covenant of redemption, the covenant of works and the covenant of grace.

With reference to the covenant of redemption, page 127:

“The first covenant we consider in the scope of Reformed theology does not directly include human beings, but is nevertheless critically important. The covenant of redemption involves the parties who work together to effect human redemption: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This covenant is rooted in eternity.”

With reference to the covenant of works, pages 128,129:

”The initial covenant God made with mankind was a covenant of works. In this covenant, according to the Westminster Confession, “life was promised to Adam; and in him to his posterity, upon condition of perfect and personal obedience.” It is important to note that a “condition” is attached to this first covenant. The condition is personal and perfect obedience. This is a condition of works, and this is the covenant’s chief stipulation. Life is promised as a reward for obedience, for satisfying the condition of the covenant.”

With reference to the covenant of grace, pages 131,132:

“The Westminster Confession declares this about the covenant of grace: ‘Man, by his fall, having made himself incapable of life by that covenant, the Lord was pleased to make a second, commonly called the covenant of grace; wherein He freely offereth unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ; requiring of them faith in Him, that they may be saved, and promising to give unto all those that are ordained unto eternal life His Holy Spirit, to make them willing, and able to believe.’

Perhaps the chief difference between the covenant of grace and the first covenant, and the reason why it is called a covenant of grace, is that this covenant is made between God and sinners. The covenant of works was made between God and his unfallen creatures. Once that covenant was violated and the fall had occurred, mankind’s only hope was rooted totally in grace.”

In an effort to help the reader better understand the relationship between these three covenants, Sproul includes this diagram:

Here is my response:

First, I wish to highlight my view of the covenants.

1. A covenant is an agreement between two or more people, with certain obligations binding them together. There are three parts to every covenant—(1) the parties; (2) the conditions; (3) the rewards/penalties.

2. Every relationship is based upon the authority of a covenant. Whether it be the relationship between a husband and wife, or parent and child, or friend and friend, or citizen and…

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In detailing Andrew Fuller’s search for the truth, Piper says:

“[Andrew Fuller] searched both the Scriptures and the history of doctrine to see if he could find this High Calvinism that had so infected and controlled his denomination…”

Fuller’s denomination, if that is what it could be called, is a circle of churches known as Strict and Particular Baptists. In his day, most of the churches leaned or stood squarely on high views of sovereign grace. In our day, the Strict and Particular Baptist heritage has been hijacked by the Moderate-Calvinists (Fullerites/Reformed Baptists). They persistently misrepresent the teachings of High-Calvinism, always putting Fuller’s newfangled views in a favorable light. They also audaciously rewrite the history of High-Calvinism, claiming to be the standard-bearers of the gospel. It is difficult to judge whether these misrepresentations are driven by ignorance, prejudice or dishonesty. Perhaps a mixture of all three.

John Piper says that Fuller searched both the scripture and the history of doctrine to see if he could find this High-Calvinism that had so infected and controlled his denomination. Well, I grew up in Fuller’s ‘denomination’. I was taught Fuller’s gospel as a child. I was trained in Fuller’s…

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John Piper charges the High-Calvinist with “muzzling the gospel cry of the Bride”:

“Hyper-Calvinism had muzzled the gospel cry of the Bride (“The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price,” Revelation 22:17). For the sake of the life of the church and the salvation of the nations, Fuller took up the battle for truth.”

Piper’s charge is utter rubbish! I have never met a professing Christian, subscribing to high views of sovereign grace, who believes the gospel should not be fully and freely preached to all sinners. The type of people Piper calls Hyper-Calvinists exist only in his imagination. High-Calvinists not only believe the gospel is to be fully and freely preached to all sinners, but they are also fierce advocates of gospel invitations. However, they are careful to give gospel invitations only to those who are thirsting for the water of life. If the sinner has eyes to see, he/she is invited to see! If the sinner has ears to hear, he/she is invited to hear! If the sinner is laboring and heavy laden, he/she is invited to take the yoke of Christ upon him/her! If the sinner is thirsting for the water of life, he/she is invited to come and freely drink! What a High-Calvinist will not do, is extend the gospel invitation to those who are not seeking after Christ. Far from “muzzling the gospel cry of the Bride”, the High-Calvinist is the one who announces a clear and certain cry to those who are of a broken heart and a contrite spirit, for these are the persons unto whom the Lord is nigh and saves. (Ps 34:18)

In his book, “Hyper-Calvinism”, Stanely Phillips speaks of this matter on Pages 78,79:

“It is unreasonable to charge “Hyper-calvinists” with being “non-evangelical,” if by the term “non-evangelical” one means they refuse to preach the Gospel of free and sovereign grace wherever the Lord cast their lot. They are a tireless and faithful People in giving themselves up to the Lord and one another in the…

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Commenting on Fuller’s doctrine of Duty-Faith, Piper lays the backdrop:

“Remember, the objection is: “It is absurd and cruel to require of any man what is beyond his power to perform.” In other words, a man’s inability to believe removes his responsibility to believe (and our duty to command them to believe). In response to this objection, Fuller brings forward the distinction between moral inability and natural inability. This was the key insight which he learned from Jonathan Edwards, and he gives him credit for it on the third page of The Gospel Worthy…Natural inability does in fact remove obligation…But moral inability does not excuse. It does not remove obligation.”

Duty-Faith is a doctrine which asserts that it is the duty of unregenerate sinners to savingly believe on Christ. There are two branches of Duty-Faith: (1) The Arminians (Free-Willers), who hold that it is the ‘spiritual duty’ of the unregenerate to exercise saving faith in order to be born again—they believe faith precedes regeneration; (2) The Moderate-Calvinists (Fullerites), who hold that it is the ‘moral duty’ of the unregenerate to exercise saving faith unto salvation—they believe the unregenerate are unable to exercise saving faith before regeneration, but that it remains their duty to do so.

Whereas the High-Calvinists and Moderate-Calvinists agree the first branch of Duty-Faith is a false doctrine, yet they do not agree on the second branch, as Piper’s comments affirm. High-Calvinists reject both branches of Duty-Faith, believing that saving faith is a spiritual/moral duty binding only upon those who have been regenerated.

Moderate-Calvinists believe the High-Calvinists are in error because they have negated the sinner’s responsibility (moral duty) to believe, based on the…

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John Piper subscribes to the view that the atonement of Christ is sufficient in its worth to save the non-elect, but efficient in its application to save only those who believe. This gobbledygook is derived from the teachings of Andrew Fuller, who sought to retain the free offer of the gospel, while subscribing to the doctrine of Particular Redemption. To that end, Fuller argued that the atonement of Christ is universal in its value, capable of covering the sins of the entire human race (elect and non-elect). He also maintained that the atonement is particular in its application, covering only the sins of those who savingly believe on Christ. In this way, Fuller could sincerely offer the gospel to the non-elect, for he believed the atonement of Christ was hypothetically sufficient for them. Piper underscores this teaching:

“On the extent of the atonement, Fuller found himself again defending the Scripture against High Calvinists and Arminians who both thought that “particular redemption” made the free offer of the gospel to all illogical. His position is that the death of Christ is not to be conceived of “commercially” in the sense that it purchased effectually a limited number such that if more believed they could not be atoned for. On the other hand, if the atonement of Christ proceed not on the principle of commercial, but of moral justice, or justice as it relates to crime — if its grand object were to express the divine displeasure against sin (Romans 8:3) and so to render the exercise of mercy, in all the ways wherein sovereign wisdom should determine to apply it, consistent with righteousness (Romans 3:25) — if it be in itself equal to the salvation of the whole world, were the whole world to embrace it—and if the peculiarity which attends it consists not in its insufficiency to save more than are saved, but in the sovereignty of its application—no such inconsistency can justly be ascribed to it (Works, Vol., II, pp. 373–374 Emphasis added).”

“In other words, the limitation of the atonement lies not in the sufficiency of its worth to save all the sinners in the world, but in the design of God to apply that infinite sufficiency to those whom he chooses.”

First, The Free Offer Of The Gospel.

It should be pointed out, that while Fullerites believe the gospel should be freely offered, yet they do not offer it freely. They offer it on condition that the sinner savingly believe and repent. This is to impose a tax on the gospel, making faith and repentance the duty of unregenerate sinners. A duty-faith and duty-repentance gospel cannot be offered freely, because it is not a free gospel that is offered.

It should also be pointed out, there is a difference between freely offering the gospel and freely preaching the gospel. The scriptures speak about…

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In an effort to ‘prove’ the killing effects of High-calvinism, John Piper directs attention to the decline of the Particular Baptist churches between 1718 and 1760:

“Fuller, who only knew High Calvinism in his early ministry, said in 1774, “I . . . durst not, for some years, address an invitation to the unconverted to come to Jesus” (Quoted from John Ryland’s biography in Ibid., p. 103.). He went on to say, “I conceive there is scarcely a minister amongst us whose preaching has not been more or less influenced by the lethargic systems of the age” (Works, Vol., II, p. 387.). The price had been huge: in the forty years after 1718; the Particular Baptists declined from 220 congregations to 150 (Morden Offering Christ, p. 8.).”

If this decline was the result of the killing effects of High-calvinism, then why were there more than 500 High-calvinist Baptist churches in England at the turn of the 20th century? Kenneth Dix, in his book, “Strict and…

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John Piper points out:

“One of Fuller’s critics, John Martin, Pastor at Grafton Street, Westminster wrote, “Sinners in my opinion, are more frequently converted, and believers more commonly edified, by a narrative of facts concerning Jesus Christ, and by a clear, connected statement of the doctrines of grace, and blessings of the gospel, than by all the expectations and expostulations that were ever invented. (Quoted in Morden, Offering Christ, p. 57.) But in fact, the Hyper-Calvinists were not passionately telling the narrative of the gospel story to the lost and were opposed to the new mission to India. Peter Morden points out that “The prevalence of high Calvinism had led not only to a refusal to ‘offer Christ’ but also to a general suspicion of all human ‘means’, such as ministerial training and associating” (Morden, Offering Christ, p. 45). The effect of this rationalistic distortion of the biblical Calvinism was that the churches were lifeless and the denomination of the Particular Baptists was dying.”

Baptist historian Kenneth Dix would disagree with this characterization of High-Calvinism and the Particular Baptists. In an article entitled, “Varieties Of High-Calvinism Among Nineteenth Century Particular Baptists”, Dix wrote:

“The nineteenth-century Strict Baptists believed the distinctive doctrines they held so firmly were rooted in scripture. They were also fully persuaded that in the stand they were making for restricted communion, and against free offer/duty faith teaching, they were doing the will of God. They were convinced that high-Calvinism was Biblical truth. The assumption is commonly made that high-Calvinism destroys or stifles all efforts to promote missionary or evangelistic endeavour. In the case of the Strict Baptists in…”

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John Piper asserts:

“Fuller himself certainly saw Gill as a High Calvinist responsible for much of the evangelistic deadness among his fellow Particular Baptists.”

There is an article written by George Ella called, “Exaggerated Claims Concerning Andrew Fuller And False Information Regarding ‘High-Calvinists’”. Ella points out:

“1795-1835 was a time of widespread revival with Anglican Robert Hawker preaching to thousands, Independent William Huntington equalled his efforts and Baptist William Gadsby founding 45-50 churches filled with new converts. The Particular Baptists were not inactive in this time but…

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Speaking of John Wesley and George Whitefield, John Piper points out:

“The Particular Baptists did not like either of these evangelical leaders. Wesley was not a Calvinist, and Whitefield’s Calvinism was suspect, to say the least, because of the kind of evangelistic preaching he did. The Particular Baptists spoke derisively of Whitefield’s ‘Arminian dialect’.”

One of the leading figures among the Particular Baptists was Pastor-Theologian John Gill. The teachings of Gill are representative of the High-Calvinism to which Piper refers. In George Ella’s book, “John Gill, And The Cause Of God And Truth”, he makes the following observation on page 184:

“It is very difficult to conceive that anyone familiar with the ministry of John Gill could accuse him of being without vigour in preaching the gospel to sinful man. Thomas Wright called Gill ‘the profoundest preacher’, claiming that ‘Dr Gill’s voice rose clear and distinct above the…

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Introduction

5 Jul 2021, by

John Piper has served as the pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota for more than 30 years. In 1994, an organization called “Desiring God” grew out of John’s tape ministry. It is now “an international web ministry with 12,000+ free resources and 3.5+billion monthly users.”

Desiring God hosted a conference for pastors in 2007. John Piper spoke on the life and ministry of Andrew Fuller, as it relates to his “broadsides Against Sandemanianism, Hyper-Calvinism, and Global Unbelief”. The title of his lecture was, “Holy Faith, Worthy Gospel, World Vision”.

The audio lecture and full transcript may be accessed here:

There are many areas one may benefit from Piper’s teachings, but this is not one of them. Having failed to understand the framework of High-Calvinism, he proceeds to build a straw man—a scarecrow—and calls it “Hyper-Calvinism”. He then burns it to the ground and claims victory over its ashes. Victory could be claimed, if High-Calvinism is the scarecrow he destroyed. Regrettably for Piper, he understands neither what High-Calvinism is, nor whereof it is affirmed. However, there is one point of agreement—John Piper is not a High-Calvinist. I am pleased to defend him against those who attack him on that issue. Properly speaking, Piper is a Moderate-Calvinist, or Fullerite.

Scattered throughout Piper’s lecture are false claims and misrepresentations of High-Calvinism. I encourage you to read the transcript of his lecture in full, that his words may be understood in context. The following articles are designed to correct many of the false charges upon which Piper has condemned High-Calvinism.

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William Styles published a book in 1902 entitled, “A Guide to Church Fellowship, as Maintained by Primitive, or Strict and Particular Baptists”. On pages 31 and 32, under the general heading, “ Error Concerning the Covenant of Grace to be Resisted”, the following statement is found:

“Any so-called Gospel which expressly or implicitly denies these truths [anti-duty-faith and anti-free-offer]—which represents the regeneration and conversion of sinners to be contingent on the earnestness and activity of “Gospel workers”—or the progress of God’s salvation…

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William Styles published a book in 1902 entitled, “A Guide to Church Fellowship, as Maintained by Primitive, or Strict and Particular Baptists”. On pages 78 and 79, under the general heading, “Duty-Faith is Denied by All Strict and Particular Baptists”, the following statement is found:

“Duty-faith is the doctrine that it is the duty of natural men to exercise spiritual Faith in the Lord Jesus, and so to obtain salvation. Its emphatic denial is a distinguishing feature of the Strict and…

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Duty-Faith and the Free-Offer are two of the most pernicious heresies infiltrating churches today.

Preachers that demand sinners exercise faith, as the initiating cause of the new birth, are appealing to the flesh, wherein dwelleth no good thing. Subsequently, false converts are mass produced through manipulative devices in getting people to ‘make a decision for Christ’. The scriptural concept of faith is this—the sinner believes because he has been born again; he is not born again because he believes. Hence…

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