Martin Bucer’s writing on pastoral theology is an outstanding Reformation resource on this topic. It’s called Concerning the True Care of Souls. There are many excellent parts in it, but one that stood out to me today as I was reading my underlines is this one on the free offer of the gospel in the pastoral ministry:
“… it is not the Lord’s will to reveal to us the secrets of his election; rather he commands us to go out into all the world and preach his gospel to every creature. He says: ‘into all the world’ and ‘to every creature.’ The fact that all people have been made by God and are God’s creatures should therefore be reason enough for us to go to them, seeking with the utmost faithfulness to bring them to eternal life.
That is why the Lord has expressed it in general terms: ‘to every creature.’ He does not want to be invited to his banquet only those who show themselves to be citizens and inhabitants of his city, but he tells his servant: ‘go out into the streets and alleys and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’ And again: ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in.’ From this the Lord teaches us that his ministers are simply to endeavor to lead to his church and to the perfect fellowship of his salvation all those who wish to come, no matter how wretched and corrupted they may be – indeed, not only to lead but to urge and compel them.
Hammond, WI, 54015