John Calvin on the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel

For extensive documentation of John Calvin’s doctrine of the sincere free offer of the gospel and that God desires all to be saved, see the 170 pages of quotes about this and common grace from his Institutes and commentaries in Herman Kuiper, Calvin on Common Grace (1928).

.

.

See also

John Calvin Quotes on God’s Love for all Mankind

John Calvin on the Fatherhood of God over all Men

John Calvin Quotes on Common Grace

 

 

Confessions written by Calvin on the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel

The Genevan Confession  1537

The Consensus Tigurinis  1549

 

 

Calvin’s catechisms on the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel

Calvin’s First Catechism (1537-8) on the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel

Calvin’s Catechism (1541) on the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel

 

 

Commentary on John 3:16,17

“For God so loved the world.” …So we must see from where Christ came to us, and why he was offered to be our Savior. Both points are distinctly stated to us: namely, that faith in Christ brings life to all, and that Christ brought life, because the Heavenly Father loves the human race, and wishes that they should not perish

This, he says, is the proper look of faith, to be fixed on Christ, in whom it beholds the breast of God filled with love: this is a firm and enduring support, to rely on the death of Christ as the only pledge of that love. The word only-begotten is emphatic, to magnify the fervor of the love of God towards us. For as men are not easily convinced that God loves them, in order to remove all doubt, he has expressly stated that we are so very dear to God that, on our account, he did not even spare his only-begotten Son…

That whosoever believeth on him may not perish…” And he has employed the universal term whosoever, both to invite all indiscriminately to partake of life, and to cut off every excuse from unbelievers. Such is also the import of the term world, which he formerly used; for though nothing will be found in the world that is worthy of the favor of God, yet he shows himself to be merciful to the whole world when he invites all men without exception to the faith of Christ, which is nothing else than an entrance into life.

[v.17] For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world. It is a confirmation of the preceding statement; for it was not in vain that God sent his own Son to us. He came not to destroy; and therefore it follows, that it is the peculiar office of the Son of God, that all who believe may obtain salvation by him. There is now no reason why any man should be in a state of hesitation, or of distressing anxiety, as to the manner in which he may escape death, when we believe that it was the purpose of God that Christ should deliver us from it. The word world is again repeated, that no man may think himself wholly excluded, if he only keep the road of faith. The word judge (prino) is here put for condemn, as in many other passages. When he declares that he did not come to condemn the world, he thus points out the actual design of his coming; for what need was there that Christ should come to destroy us who were utterly ruined? We ought not, therefore, to look at any thing else in Christ, than that God, out of his boundless goodness chose to extend his aid for saving us who were lost; and whenever our sins press us–whenever Satan would drive us to despair–we ought to hold out this shield, that God is unwilling that we should be overwhelmed with everlasting destruction, because he has appointed his Son to be the salvation of the world. When Christ says, in other passages, that he is come to judgment, (John 9:39;) when he is called a stone of offense, (1 Peter 2:7;) when he is said to be set for the destruction of many, (Luke 2:34:) this may be regarded as accidental, or as arising from a different cause; for they who reject the grace offered in him deserve to find him the Judge and Avenger of contempt so unworthy and base. A striking instance of this may be seen in the Gospel; for though it is strictly the power of God for salvation to every one who believeth, (Romans 1:16,) the ingratitude of many causes it to become to them death.  Both have been well expressed by Paul, when he boasts of having vengeance at hand, by which he will punish all the adversaries of his doctrine after that the obedience of the godly shall have been fulfilled, (2 Corinthians 10:6) The meaning amounts to this, that the Gospel is especially, and in the first instance, appointed for believers, that it may be salvation to them; but that afterwards believers will not escape unpunished who, despising the grace of Christ, chose to have him as the Author of death rather than of life.

 

Sermons on Deuteronomy

Sermon 13, Deut., 3:14-29, pp., 77-78

He says that whether GOD’s word bring life or death to men, yet it always a good and sweet savor before GOD. True it is that God’s word of itself (as it shall be declared more fully hereafter) is always the savor of life . For what is it that God aims at, if we consider his word in its own nature? The calling of men back to the end that they may be saved. And yet for all that, we see by experience that it is an odor and savor of death, insomuch as the wicked ate are strangled and choked with it, as soon as they do but take the scent or smell of it. They need not to taste of it nor to eat of it: if they do but take the scent of it a great way, it is poison to them, so that is the devil carries them away, and they fall to fretting and chafing against GOD: and all to their own destruction. And do we see that God’s word turns into occasion of death, to a great number of men? Yet must we be of good cheer, says St. Paul. And why? Because it is a good and sweet savor unto God, when men are made inexcusable.

But now let us come to declare how God’s word tends unto life, and how it has that property: notwithstanding that men through their own wickedness, do turn it into their deadly condemnation. This is sufficiently expressed in that it is said, That Moses sent a message of peace to Sihon King of the Ammorites. His desire then is to abstain from all annoyance, if Sehon could abide it. Now let us see to what end the Gospel is preached, and after what manner. What else is contained in it, but that God intends to be reconciled to the world, and says St. Paul in the fifth of the second to the Corinthians (2 Cor 5:20)? In as much then as GOD sends us tidings of peace, so as his desire is to show himself a father to all such as yield themselves teachable unto him, and our Lord Jesus Christ is offered to us as the means to bring us again into the love and favor of our God: it is surely a message of peace. And in deed, the Gospel is so entitled, and not without cause. True it is that the law also was a message of peace (Ephes. 6:15), as in respect of the promises: if we look upon the law strictly, as Saint Paul speaks divers times of it (Roms 4:15): it will be a very message of wrath. But if we look upon the promises that were made to the fathers of old time: even from the beginning of the world, God’s will was that sinners should know his mercy, and come unto him. And for that cause it is said that Jesus Christ brings peace, both to them that are afar off, and to them that are near hand, as says Saint Paul to the Ephesians: and he will have it be preached through the whole world (Eph. 2:17), that God’s only desire is to hold us in his love.

Thus we see how we may find salvation in the Gospel. Now then we see, that God’s word considered in itself, is a commission of peace, furthering us to be joined and made one with him, so as we may call upon him and rest in his goodness. And the means to have this word redound to our salvation, is this, if we can receive it as we ought to do, according as Saint Paul treats thereof in the first to the Romans (Rom. 1:16). And therefore Ministers thereof must have this consideration with them: Behold, GOD sends me: and what puts he in my mouth? Peace, to offer it unto all men, and to the end that even the wicked should be partakers of the same message and understand that GOD seeks them. But yet for all that, we know that this message cannot profit all men. What must it do then? It must make men inexcusable. For what can be said to it, if God handle men out of hand as they deserve?

 

Sermon #28, Deut. 4.36-38, p. 167, this quote was compiled by Andrew Myers.

It is true that Saint John says generally, that [God] loved the world.  And why? For Jesus Christ offers Himself generally to all men without exception to be their redeemer…  

Thus we see three degrees of the love that God has showed us in our Lord Jesus Christ.  The first is in respect of the redemption that was purchased in the person of Him that gave Himself to death for us, and became accursed to reconcile us to God his Father.  That is the first degree of love, which extends to all men, inasmuch as Jesus Christ reaches out his arms to call and allure all men both great and small, and to win them to Him.  

But there is a special love for those to whom the gospel is preached: which is that God testifies unto them that He will make them partakers of the benefit that was purchased for them by the death and passion of his Son.  And forasmuch as we be of that number, therefore we are double bound already to our God: here are two bonds which hold us as it were strait tied unto Him.  

Now let us come to the third bond, which depends upon the third love that God shows us: which is that He not only causes the gospel to be preached unto us, but also makes us to feel the power thereof, so as we know Him to be our Father and Savior, not doubting but that our sins are forgiven us for our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, who brings us the gift of the Holy Ghost, to reform us after his own image.

 

Sermons on Acts 1-7

Sermon 10, Acts 4:5-12, p., 132.

Here Peter makes special mention of the high priest. He mentions the entire priestly family; he mentions the elders of the people, the scribes and rulers, as if to say, ‘These are all those who have spiritual authority of the church, who are enemies and adversaries of God.’ It is true Peter does well to use these honourable titles at the outset of when he calls them ‘rulers of the people and elders of Israel’, but then he adds, ‘You are enemies of God, you who crucified the author of life, you who rejected the salvation of the world, you who did all you could to hinder the advancement of the kingdom of God. 

 

Sermons on Acts 1-7

Sermon 21, Acts 5:33-35, 38-39, p. 277

Luke also adds that they took counsel how they might kill the apostles. Such is the ingratitude unbelievers offer those who bring them the gospel. When God’s servants proclaim that God’s Son came into the world to bring all men salvation, men are so ungrateful that they gnash their teeth against the teaching and try to kill those who seek to help them in this way.

 

Commentary on Matt 26:14

The bare mention of the burying ought to have softened a heart of iron; for it would have been easy to infer from it, that Christ offered himself as a sacrifice for the salvation of the human race.

 

Commentary on John 4:34

What was the office of Christ is well known. It was to advance the kingdom of God, to restore to life lost souls, to spread the light of the Gospel, and, in short, to bring salvation to the world. The excellence of these things caused him, when fatigued and hungry, to forget meat and drink. Yet we derive from this no ordinary consolation, when we learn that Christ was so anxious about the salvation of men, that it gave him the highest delight to procure it; for we cannot doubt that he is now actuated by similar feelings towards us.

 

Commentary on John 4:43

Again, when they affirm that Jesus is the Christ and the Savior of the world, they undoubtedly have learned this from hearing him. Hence we infer that, within two days, the sum of the Gospel was more plainly taught by Christ than he had hitherto taught it in Jerusalem. And Christ testified that the salvation, which he had brought, was common to the whole world, that they might understand more fully that it belonged to them also; for he did not call them on the ground of their being lawful heirs, as the Jews were, but taught that he had come to admit strangers into the family of God, and to bring peace to those who were far off, ( Ephesians 2:17).

 

Commentary on Acts 10:38

For it was not meet that the fearful power of God should be showed forth in him, but such as might allure the world with the sweet taste of goodness and grace to love him and to desire him.

 

Commentary on John 12:47

If any man hear my words. After having spoken concerning his grace, and exhorted his disciples to steady faith, he now begins to strike the rebellious, though even here he mitigates the severity due to the wickedness of those who deliberately–as it were–reject God; for he delays to pronounce judgment on them, because, on the contrary, he has come for the salvation of all. In the first place, we ought to understand that he does not speak here of all unbelievers without distinction, but of those who, knowingly and willingly, reject the doctrine of the Gospel which has been exhibited to them. Why then does Christ not choose to condemn them? It is because he lays aside for a time the office of a judge, and offers salvation to all without reserve, and stretches out his arms to embrace all, that all may be the more encouraged to repent. And yet there is a circumstance of no small moment, by which he points out the aggravation of the crime, if they reject an invitation so kind and gracious, for it is as if he had said, “Lo, I am here to invite all, and, forgetting the character of a judge, I have this as my single object, to persuade all, and to rescue from destruction those who are already twice ruined.” No man, therefore, is condemned on account of having despised the Gospel, except he who, disdaining the lovely message of salvation, has chosen of his own accord to draw down destruction on himself. The word judge, as is evident from the word save, which is contrasted with it, here signifies to condemn. Now this ought to be understood as referring to the office which properly and naturally belongs to Christ; for that unbelievers are not more severely condemned on account of the Gospel is accidental, and does not arise from its nature, as we have said on former occasions.

 

Commentary on John 12:48

He who rejects me. That wicked men may not flatter themselves as if their unbounded disobedience to Christ would pass unpunished, he, adds here a dreadful threatening, that though he were to do nothing in this matter, yet his doctrine alone would be sufficient to condemn them, as he says elsewhere, that there would be no need of any other judge than Moses, in whom they boasted, (John 5:45.) The meaning, therefore, is: “Burning with ardent desire to promote your salvation, I do indeed abstain from exercising my right to condemn you,and am entirely employed in saving what is lost; but do not think that you have escaped out of the hands of God; for though I should altogether hold my peace, the word alone, which you have despised, is sufficient to judge you.

 

Commentary on Acts 5:12

Christ doth not only declare his power, but also his goodness; to the end he may allure men unto himself with the sweetness of his grace. For he came to save the world, and not to condemn it.

 

Commentary on 1 Tim. 1:15

[Verse] 15. It is a faithful saying. After having defended his ministry from slander and unjust accusations, not satisfied with this, he turns to his own advantage what might have been brought against him by his adversaries as a reproach. He shews that it was profitable to the Church that he had been such a person as he actually was before he was called to the apostleship, because Christ, by giving him as a pledge, invited all sinners to the sure hope of obtaining pardon. For when he, who had been a fierce and savage beast, was changed into a Pastor, Christ gave a remarkable display of his grace, from which all might be led to entertain a firm belief that no sinner; how heinous and aggravated so ever might have been his transgressions, had the gate of salvation shut against him.

That Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. He first brings forward this general statement, and adorns it with a preface, as he is wont to do in matters of vast importance. In the doctrine of religion, indeed, the main point is, to come to Christ, that, being lost in ourselves, we may obtain salvation from him. Let this preface be to our ears like the sound of a trumpet to proclaim the praises of the grace of Christ, in order that we may believe it with a stronger faith. Let it be to us as a seal to impress on our hearts a firm belief of the forgiveness of sins, which otherwise with difficulty finds entrance into the hearts of men.

A faithful saying. What was the reason why Paul aroused attention by these words, but because men are always disputing with themselves about their salvation? For, although God the Father a thousand times offer to us salvation, and although Christ himself preach about his own office, yet we do not on that account cease to tremble, or at least to debate with ourselves if it be actually so. Wherefore, whenever any doubt shall arise in our mind about the forgiveness of sins, let us learn to repel it courageously with this shield, that it is an undoubted truth, and deserves to be received without controversy.

To save sinners. The word sinners is emphatic; for they who acknowledge that it is the office of Christ to save, have difficulty in admitting this thought, that such a salvation belongs to “sinners.” Our mind is always impelled to look at our worthiness; and as soon as our unworthiness is seen, our confidence sinks. Accordingly, the more any one is oppressed by his sins, let him the more courageously betake himself to Christ, relying on this doctrine, that he came to bring salvation not to the righteous, but to “sinners.” It deserves attention, also, that Paul draws an argument from the general office of Christ, in order that what he had lately testified about his own person might not appear to be on account of its novelty.

 

Sermons on Psalm 119

7th sermon, 119:49-56, p. 133, (Old Paths Publications)

So likewise, when it is said in the holy scripture, (1 Timothy 1:15) that this is a true and undoubted saying, that God hath sent his only begotten son, to save all miserable sinnerswe must include it within this same rank I say, that every of us apply the same particularly to himself: when as we hear this general sentence, that God is merciful. Have we heard this? Then may we boldly call upon him, and even say, although I am a miserable and forlorn creature, since it is said that God is merciful to those which have offended him: I will run unto him and to his mercy, beseeching him that he will make me to feel it. And since it is said. That God so loved the world, that he spared not his only begotten son: but delivered him to death for us. (John 3:16; Romans 8:32) It is meet I look to that. For it is very needful, that Jesus Christ should pluck me out from that condemnation, wherein I am. Since it is so, that the love and goodness of God is declared unto the world, in that that his son Christ Jesus hath suffered death, I must appropriate the same to myself, that I may know that it is to me, that God hath spoken, that he would I should take the possession of such a grace, and therein to rejoice me.

 

Commentary on Matt 10:6

But go rather to the lost sheep. The first rank, as we have said, is assigned to the Jews, because they were the firstborn; or rather, because at that time they alone were acknowledged by God to belong to his family, while others were excluded. He calls them lost sheep, partly that the apostles, moved by compassion, may more readily and with warmer affection run to their assistance, and partly to inform them that there is at present abundant occasion for their labors. At the same time, under the figure of this nation, Christ taught what is the condition of the whole human race. The Jews, who were near to God, and in covenant with him, and therefore were the lawful heirs of eternal life, are nevertheless pronounced to be lost, till they regain salvation through Christ. What then remains for us who are inferior to them in honor? Again, the word sheep is applied even to the reprobate, who, properly speaking, did not belong to the flock of God, because the adoption extended to the whole nation; as those who deserved to be rejected, on account of their treachery, are elsewhere called the children of the kingdom, (Matthew 8:12).  In a word, by the term sheep, Christ recommends the Jews to the apostles, that they may dedicate their labors to them, because they could recognize as the flock of God none but those who had been gathered into the fold.

 

Commentary on Matt 15:24

To the lost sheep of the house of IsraelHe bestows the designation of sheep of the house of Israel not on the elect only, but on all who were descended from the holy fathers; for the Lord had included all in the covenant, and was promised indiscriminately to all as a Redeemer, as he also revealed and offered himself to all without exception. It is worthy of observation, that he declares himself to have been sent to LOST sheep, as he assures us in another passage that he came to save that which was lost, (Matthew 18:11.) Now as we enjoy this favor, at the present day, in common with the Jews, we learn what our condition is till he appear as our Savior.

 

Commentary on Luke 19:41

And wept over it. As there was nothing which Christ more ardently desired than to execute the office which the Father had committed to him, and as he knew that the end of his calling was to gather the lost sheep of the house of Israel, (Matthew 15:24), he wished that his coming might bring salvation to allThis was the reason why he was moved with compassion, and wept over the approaching destruction of the city of Jerusalem. For while he reflected that this was the sacred abode which God had chosen, in which the covenant of eternal salvation should dwell–the sanctuary from which salvation would go forth to the whole world, it was impossible that he should not deeply deplore its ruin. And when he saw the people, who had been adopted to the hope of eternal life, perish miserably through their ingratitude and wickedness, we need not wonder if he could not refrain from tears.

 

Sermons on the Deity of Christ

Sermon 6: The Fourth Sermon on the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, p 108  (Old Paths Publications)

So let us learn (following what I have already mentioned) to know in everything and by everything the inestimable goodness of our God. For as He declared His love toward mankind when He spared not His Only Son but delivered Him to death for sinners, also He declares a love which He bears especially toward us when by His Holy Spirit He touches us by the knowledge of our sins and He makes us wail and draws us to Himself with repentance.

 

Commentary on Ezekiel 18:1-4

We now see why an oath is interposed, while he pronounces that he will take care that the Jews should not ridicule any longer. Behold, says he, all souls are mine; as the sole of the son so the soul of the father, all souls are mine; the soul, therefore, which has sinned it shall die. Some interpreters explain the beginning of the verse thus: that men vainly and rashly complain when God seems to treat them too severely, since the clay does not rise against the potter. Since God is the maker of the whole world, we are his workmanship: what madness, then, to rise up against him when he does not satisfy us: and we saw this simile used by Jeremiah. (Jeremiah 18:6)  The sentiment, then, is true in itself, that all souls are under God’s sovereignty by the right of creation, and therefore he can arbitrarily determine for each whatever he wishes; and all who clamor against him reap no profit: and this teaching it is advantageous to notice. But this passage ought to be understood otherwise; namely, that nothing is more unworthy than that God should be accused of tyrannizing over men, when he rather defends them, as being his own workmanship. When, therefore, God pronounces that all souls are his own, he does not merely claim sovereignty and power, but he rather shows that he is affected with fatherly love towards the whole human race since he created and formed it; for, if a workman loves his work because he recognizes in it the fruits of his industry, so, when God has manifested his power and goodness in the formation of men, he must certainly embrace them with affection. True, indeed, we are abominable in God’s sight, through being corrupted by original sin, as it is elsewhere said, (Psalm 14:1, 2;) but inasmuch as we are men, we must be dear to God, and our salvation must be precious in his sight. We now see what kind of refutation this is: all souls are mine, says he: I have formed all, and am the creator of all, and so I am affected with fatherly love towards all, and they shall rather feel my clemency, from the least to the greatest, than experience too much rigor and severity.

 

Commentary on Acts 2:19

But this serveth greatly to the setting forth of grace, that whereas all things do threaten destruction, yet whosoever doth call upon the name of the Lord is sure to be saved. By the darkness of the sun, by the bloody streaming of the moon, by the black vapor of smoke, the prophet meant to declare, that whithersoever men turn their eyes, there shall many things appear, both upward and downward, which may make them amazed and afraid, as he hath already said. Therefore, this is as much as if he should have said, that the world was never in a more miserable case, that there were never so many and such cruel tokens of God’s wrath. Hence may we gather how inestimable the goodness of God iswho offereth a present remedy for so great evils; and again, how unthankful they are towards God, and how froward, which do not flee unto the sanctuary of salvation, which is nigh unto them, and doth meet them. Again, it is out of all doubt, that God meaneth by this so doleful a description, to stir up all godly men, that they may with a more fervent desire seek for salvation. And Peter citeth it to the same end, that the Jews may know that they shall be more miserable unless they receive that grace of the Spirit which is offered unto them. Yet here may a question be asked, how this can hang together, that when Christ is revealed, there should such a sea of miseries overflow and break out therewithal? For it may seem to be a thing very inconvenient, that he should be the only pledge of God’s love toward mankind, in whom the heavenly Father doth lay open all the treasure of his goodness, yea, he poureth out the bowels of his mercy upon us, and that yet, by the coming of the same, his Son, his wrath should be more hot than it was wont, so that it should, as it were, quite consume both heaven and earth at once.

 

 


These quotes (except those contra-indicated) were gratefully excerpted from Calvin and Calvinism

Related Pages

The Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel

Historic Reformed Quotes on the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel

1500’s Quotes on the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel