The Biblical Basis for the Free Offer

What scriptural texts did Durham use to justify his definition of the free offer of the gospel?  Some key texts are as follows:

2 Cor 5:20, “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech [you] by us: we pray [you] in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.”  For instance speaking of the duties of ministers Durham states, “it is their commission to pray them, to whom they are sent, to be reconciled; to tell them that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself (as it is 2 Cor. 5:19-20), and in Christ’s stead request them to embrace the offer of reconciliation … This is ministers work, to pray people not to be idle hearers of the gospel…”[1]

Matt 22:4, “all things [are] ready: come unto the marriage.”  Durham states, “The offer of this gospel … is set out under the expression of inviting to a feast; and hearers of the gospel are called to come to Christ, as strangers or guests are called to come to a wedding fest (Matt. 22:2-4). All things are ready, come to the wedding, and etc.  Thus the gospel calls not to an empty house that [lacks] meat, but to a banqueting house where Christ is made ready as the cheer…”[2]


Is 55:1, “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” Durham expands on this verse, “The offer of the gospel is … set out often under the similitude or expression of a market where all the wares are laid forth on the stand (Isa. 55:1; Ho, every one that thirsts, come to the waters, etc.).  And lest it should be said, or thought, that the proclamation is only to the thirsty, and such as are so and so qualified; you may look to what follows, Let him that has no money come; yea, come, buy without money and without price.”[3]


Rev 3:20, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.”   Perhaps a verse that may surprise some of you, but Rev 3:20 was understood almost universally by the Puritans as an evangelistic appeal to unconverted sinners.  Durham it typical when he states, “The offer of this gospel is … set out under the similitude of a standing and knocking and calling hard at sinners’ doors (Rev 3:20, Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any man will hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and sup with him, and he with me) … which is an earnest invitation to make way for Christ Jesus, wanting nothing but an entry into the heart, whereby we may see how Christ comes in the gospel, and is laid to folks hands.”[4]  Or again, “He says from there, ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any man will hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.’  It is as if he had said, ‘I come in my gospel to woo, and, if any will consent to take me on the terms on which I offer myself, I will be theirs.’”[5]


Ezekiel 18:31-32, “why will ye die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord GOD: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.”  Durham explains, “Faith … is well expressed in the Catechism, to be a receiving of Christ as he is offered in the gospel.  This supposes that Christ is offered to us, and that we are naturally without him.  The gospel comes and says, ‘why will you die, O house of Israel?  Come and receive a Saviour.’”[6]


Matthew 23:37, Luke 19:41-2, Christ’s lament over Jerusalem, “And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it.”  Durham uses this verse as follows, “Sometimes he complains (as John 5:40), Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life; and sometimes weeps and moans, because sinners will not be gathered (as Luke 19:41-42 and Matt 23:37).  Can there be any greater evidences of reality in any offer?”[7] Another example of Durham’s use of this verse is his statement that “[In the gospel offer] the Father and the Son are most heartily willing; therefore they expostulate when this marriage is refused, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often would I have gathered you, but you would not!” (Matthew 23:37).  “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, if thou, even thou, hadst known in this thy day the things that belong to thy peace!” (Luke 19:42).  All these sad complaints, that Israel would not hearken to His voice, and His people would have none of Him (Psalm 81:11), that He came to His own, and His own received Him not (John 1:11), and that they will not come to Him that they might have life (John 5:40), make out His willingness abundantly and undeniably.”[8]


Rev 22:17, “And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” Durham uses this verse as follows, “grace says, Ho, come, and (Rev 22:17), Whosoever will, let him come and take of the water of life freely.  It is not only, to say with reverence, those whom he wills, but it is whosoever will…”[9] Another of Durham’s uses of this verse is “This is our Lord’s farewell, that He may press the offer of the Gospel and leave that impression as it were, upon record amongst the last words of this Scripture; and his scope is to commend this Book and the offers He hath made in it, as most free and on terms of grace, wherein Christ aimeth much to draw souls to accept it…”[10]


I hope that gives you a flavour of some of the biblical basis Durham adduces for the free offer of the gospel.

[1] Durham, Christ Crucified, 79

[2] Durham, Christ Crucified, 80

[3] Durham, Christ Crucified, 80

[4] Durham, Christ Crucified, 80 

[5] Durham, Unsearchable Riches, 46

[6] Durham, Christ Crucified, 96-7

[7] Durham, Christ Crucified, 125 

[8] Durham, Unsearchable Riches, 55

[9] Durham, Christ Crucified, 125 

[10] Durham, Revelation, 992

2 Responses to “The Biblical Basis for the Free Offer”

  1. Steven Carr Says:

    It is sad to think that there are Reformed theologians who think that Durham might have been infected with Arminianism or Amyraldiansim in the way he interpreted these verses. There is simply no evidence of that. Durham and his like were Calvinists to the core.

  2. Donald John MacLean Says:

    Hi Steve

    Yes, men like Durham define what it means to be reformed so to claim their understanding of verses is “unreformed” is simply wrong. But as you note there are people (especially on the internet but also in print) who say these things. And so I keep blogging away 🙂

    Every blessing

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