1. I wholeheartedly believe in the free offer of the gospel. When the preacher proclaims the gospel, he should make clear that if anyone believes they will be saved.
2. Everybody has the gospel veiled to them (1) by virtue of their own heart and (2) by virtue of the god of this age blinding people's heart in unbelief. The gospel is always foolish to those who are perishing. It is the power of the gospel that causes people to see and believe. God breaths new life. The preacher should continually offer and plead to the listeners, if God is pleased, he will open hearts and they will receive and believe. But the offer can always be made.
3. Two passages that might be worth considering here are (1) 2 Thes. 2:11, the questions would be what is the delusion, and when does it happen? Hebrews 6:4-6. The questions are what is the nature of the impossibility? I tend to think that it relates to rejecting the New Covenant. I think it means if you fall away from Jesus and his Covenant you have no other options for repentance whereas Old Testament Israel breaking the Old Covenant was promised the New Covenant to deal with her apostasy. But I'm not going to tease this out in a short blog post. These passages do not negate the free offer of the gospel in preaching.
My point is: the offer never changes [at least until Christ returns or the person dies], especially in the preaching of the word. It is a dangerous thing for the preacher to think he can discern when the heart is beyond coming to repentant faith. It can lead to arrogant failures to proclaim and share the gospels. Who are we as human beings to dictate when God cannot work? Indeed, the whole point of the gospel is that it is the power of God and we were all dead in our heart and unable to come, but God opened our eyes to see the light of the glory of the gospel in the face of Christ and without fail we, because of God's power and will, responded and trusted Christ.
Keep making the offer, who knows what the Holy Spirit is doing in people's heart.
What about reprobation, specifically in Romans 1:28ff?
Being given over to a reprobate mind is the description of every sinner. Consider the list of sins in Romans 1:28ff. This description of sinners both Jew and Gentile continues in Romans 3:9-18. In fact the mind set on the flesh (e.g. reprobate) cannot submit to God's law, and cannot please God (Romans 8:7-8). So the reprobate mind is blinded in unbelief with a veil over their heart but God causes light to shine in their heart 2 Cor. 4:6. Also 1 Cor. 6:9-11 describes people who were living in sin/reprobation as being washed, sanctified and justified.
The person with the reprobate mind can be tracked from Romans 1:26 all the way back to Romans 1:18 where God's wrath is against all the ungodliness and wickedness of men.
One passage to consider is the warning that hearers of God's Word do not harden their hearts Heb. 3:7-19. There are strong warnings, serious warnings--but nothing in the passage does not say that they come to a point where there is no more public outward offering of the Word in public preaching.
Don't we do people a disservice when we let people think they are accepting Christ on their own terms?
We are not calling people to "cast a vote for Jesus" or "come on their terms" we are calling people to come before the Lord and trust Him. We are calling people to believe and repent. Even the idea of 'receiving Christ' or 'accepting Christ' while totally Biblical does not mean adding Christ to your life like you might add potatoes on a buffet line to your plate because it's convenient. The Christian submits and humbles himself to the Lordship of Christ. They are saved only by trusting Christ but out of that trust comes a new allegiance and new affections.
With the rich young ruler, we need to be careful about arguments from silence. Absence of evidence is not evidence to the contrary. But lets suppose he never was given another opportunity because he never encountered another preacher of the gospel. God never promises that we will constantly always encounter lost of preacher. A person may never hear the gospel preached, they may hear only one time, or they may hear multiple times--but these doesn't negate the free offer.
Had the rich young ruler encounter another preacher there is nothing that stops the cry of preaching from being: "Trust Christ." The offer always stands. The promise always stands: if you trust Christ, you will be saved.
What is your qualification for accepting Christ?
Consider one more thing everyone: what is your qualification for hearing Christ? What qualifies you to hear Christ's message? Nothing but your need is your qualification. The only thing you come to God with is great desperation. This is the Biblical argument, this is expounded in E.J. Fischer's classic: The Marrow of Modern Divinity, with Thomas Boston's notes.
If your great need is your only qualification or precondition in coming to Christ--then what can disqualify you? Nothing! Your heart is desperately wicked and dead in sin. The call is: "trust Christ! Flee to Christ! Believe and repent to Christ." You never disqualify yourself because you never qualified yourself in the first place: you only ever have and will have your great need of the Savior.
You never reach a point where the gift of salvation is not offered to you. The promise is come and find peace. Believe and receive salvation. You cannot disqualify yourself from a free gift because you have no qualifications for the gift in the first place. God's promise stands until death or Christ's return: if you trust Christ you will be saved.
Of course I'm not calling on people to test God or harden their heart. But in the preaching of the gospel: the free offer of salvation always stands to each and every sinner.
My thoughts on Calvinism and Arminianism.
There can be a lot of caricatures, especially of Calvinism. And of course, people think Calvinism isn't Biblical or it makes God harsh and unloving, but it is unfortunate that this portrait of Calvinism continues today, especially on the internet.
I'll be a little bold and just lay out an obvious irony here: it is the true Calvinist who will vigorously defending the free offer of the gospel here. [I'm not saying Armininians wouldn't]
In my opinion, this is also why the doctrines of grace are so important--and all this on the free offer is totally consistent within Calvinism. In fact, I'll just drop a bomb, stir up the hornet's nest, and say it: the Calvinist and only the Calvinist can be the most consistent in this defense because we believe in total depravity--in their depravity every person without the Spirit and in their natural state is "UNABLE to understand" the things of God's Spirit (2 Cor. 2:14). Total depravity is the reason the free offer is for all and equal to all--going out indiscriminately.
It is the sovereignty of God who hardens and calls not on the basis of anything inside the person (Romans 9), that can lead Paul to his passionate plea for preaching in Romans 10. 'How can they believe if they've never heard? How will they hear unless they are sent? ...Faith comes through hearing and hearing through the Word of Christ.'
The free offer is made in preaching and in the outward proclamation God sees fit to call people inwardly. No heart is outside the ability of God to regenerate and effectively call. The free offer is for everyone no matter how they reject and revile because the 'word of the cross' is always foolishness to those who are perishing.Tim Bertolet tweets at @tim_bertolet and welcomes followers.
God Bless! Soli Deo Gloria.
God Bless! Soli Deo Gloria.