CON Contact Us DON Donate
Our History General Assembly Worldwide Outreach Ministries Standards Resources

Question and Answer

Protestant Reformed Church and the Free Offer


My husband and I recently began attending an Orthodox Presbyterian Church and are still learning about the doctrines. Our son and his household attend a Protestant Reformed Church. We have discussed different doctrines with them. One of them is the well-meant offer of salvation. Do you know if there is a difference in the beliefs on this issue between the OPC and PRC? We have seen literature to suggest there is, but we aren't sure if the literature is the official stand of the OPC or simply the opinion of some.


Your perceptions regarding the issue of "the free offer of the gospel" are correct. In general, the OPC and the Protestant Reformed Church (PRC) differ dramatically on this point. And to be honest, the PRC differs from almost every other Reformed church on this point, many of whom would consider the PRC to have hyper-Calvinistic symptoms in this area.

The disagreement has been a long-standing one between us. It started way back in the 1920's, when the Christian Reformed Church (CRC) debated both this issue and the issue of "common grace." Those in what is now the PRC thought they saw liberalizing tendencies in the CRC, which certainly were indeed clearly manifested some 70 years later in the 1990's to the extent that the North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council (NAPARC, a conservative and Reformed inter-church relations organization) voted at its 1999 Meeting to suspend the membership of the CRC in NAPARC,

Those in the PRC, however, tend to see all things in the Scripture through the prism of the doctrines of salvation, and especially "election." They consider those of us who demur from this to be in error. Along these lines, I believe that the PRC's doctrine of creation is consequently deficient. In other words, if salvation is magnified to excess and creation is de-emphasized correspondingly, serious errors will result, even in one's doctrine of salvation!

I believe hat the PRC tends toward theological "pietism" because of this, failing to see God's delight in "the world" of his creation. Hence their errors in regard to "common grace." In their view, "the world" becomes eclipsed by God's eternal decree of election. On the other hand, if a word-study of the word "world" is done in the New Testament, one can see that God's redemption has a focus on the world, and not simply the elect. The two are complimentary and not in opposition. Some see I John 2:2 arguing for the coordination of these two great themes, and not their opposition, but there are many passages of Scripture that speak of the redemption of God's created world (Rom. 8:19-22; Col. 1:16-20; and Rev. 4:11 with Rev. 5:9-10.)

If election is the focus of the Word, then they may be right. But I think election is just one of the significant themes (plural) that God brings us in the Scriptures, and that to promote election to undue prominence skews God's revealed (biblical) intentions.

"The Free Offer of the Gospel" (as John Murray and Ned Stonehouse proposed in their report to General assembly on this topic, also available as a booklet from Great Commmisson Publications) argues that while the Lord teaches us about election, He also proclaims a conditional gospel to all men: If you believe in me, then you will be saved!

The teaching of John 3:16 summarizes this proposal. Its purpose is not to teach about man's power to believe (as the Arminian believes) but rather the conditional offer that "Whosoever believes...will not perish, but have everlasting life!"

Our position would argue that, since we are not omniscient (as is God), all we can do is take God's word seriously in what He says. Ours is not to reconcile his teachings in such a ways that "the free Offer" is destroyed by His self-revelation of His Sovereignty (i.e., doctrine of election). If there be some tensions between these two, we believe it our responsibility to humbly submit to it, not eviscerate one for the other.

I hope this helps. It is an area of deep theology, and is not easily penetrated! The PRC has written a seemingly endless series of articles on this subject; but the vast majority of the Reformed churches are not convinced. And, to this point in time, the PRC has not been persuaded by this reaction. The two groups have decided to march separately.

About Q&A

"Questions and Answers" is a weekly feature of the OPC website. The answers come from individual ministers in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church expressing their own convictions and do not necessarily represent an "official" position of the Church, especially in areas where the Standards of the Church (the Scriptures and the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms) are silent.

The questions come from individuals like yourself. If you have questions about biblical and theological matters, you are invited to send them by e-mail by using the "Pose a Question" link on the OPC home page or by clicking here.

At least one new question is posted each week, so there should always be something new here for you to read. (For those people who would like to look at previous questions and answers, they will continue to be available as well.)

The purpose of the OPC website's "Questions and Answers" is to respond to biblical and theological questions. Matters of church discipline, disputes, or debates go beyond the scope of our work. We recommend that you present your concerns in these areas to the appropriate judicatory. In most cases this will be to a local pastor, elder, or session. We do not want the website to replace personal involvement in, or commitment to, the local, visible church.

While we will respond to every serious questioner, we are not bound to give a substantive answer to every question, should we deem the question to be beyond the scope of our purpose or our own ability to answer.

You will receive an answer by e-mail. Please be patient as many of our respondents are busy pastors. The response to your question may take up to two (2) weeks. Some of the questions submitted will be chosen to be posted here, along with the corresponding answers.

Note that the "Questions and Answers" posted on the site have been edited—all personal references are removed, Scripture references or from some source may be added, and sometimes portions are expanded—to make the questions and answers more useful to a larger audience.

© 2020 The Orthodox Presbyterian Church



Chaplains and Military Personnel

Diaconal Ministries


Inter-Church Relations

Ministerial Care

Planned Giving

Short-Term Missions


Church Directory

Daily Devotional

Audio Sermons

Trinity Hymnal

Camps & Conferences

Gospel Tracts

Book Reviews



Presbyterian Guardian