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Canons of Dordt (6)

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Canons of Dordt (6)

7 minuten leestijd

It is a great privilege to live under the preaching of the gospel. It is also a great responsibility. God's wrath abides upon those who are disobedient to the gospel. However, true faith flees to Jesus Christ. It receives what the Lord gives. Our fathers said that it embraces Jesus, the Savior. This is a true and living faith, not some reasoning or contemplation. It is the faith that hungers and thirsts after Christ and His righteousness. It is the faith of the Canaanitish woman, which wrestles with Him and says with Jacob, “I will not let Thee go, except Thou bless me.” It is the hand that receives; not a worker's hand, but a beggar's hand. Such a hand itself is also a gift of God, and not the fruit of man's free will or man's decision.

This is what we also read in Article 5:

The cause orguilt of this unbelief, as well as of all other sins, is no wise in God, but in man himself; whereas faith in Jesus Christ and salvation through Him is the free gift of God, as it is written: “for by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8).

“For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake” (Philippians 1:29).

The sin of unbelief

Already in Paradise man began to try to put the blame for his fall upon God. This wicked effort to escape the responsibility for what we have done and are doing every day lives in all our hearts. It was the accusation of the Remonstrants that the Reformed doctrine made God the author of sin. The Remonstrants, the followers of Arminius, said, “You Reformed people teach that everything is in God's decree, also sin. Thus you make God responsible for it.” Our fathers refuted this accusation so clearly in this article. The Remonstrants made a distinction between the sin of unbelief and all other sins. In their view Christ had atoned for all the other sins, but not for the sin of unbelief. That sin of unbelief, they teach, will be punished so severely because man himself has the power to believe if he so desires. Our Reformed fathers made no such distinction, but said all sins deserve God's punishment, also the sin of unbelief. The cause of all sin, also of unbelief, lies in us. How clearly Christ Himself taught this when He said in John 5:40, “And ye will not come to Me, that ye might have life.”

Man's guilt

Some desire to hear that no man can come to Him, but they do not want to hear that we are also unwilling to come. Man is so proud that he does not want to admit and acknowledge that he is so totally depraved that he prefers darkness above light, death above life, and the bondage of service to Satan, world, and sin above true liberty. He does not want to admit that he is such a fooi and such an enemy of free grace. He is also blind to it, believing the lie of the devil; thus we need not seek the Arminian or the popish doctrine so far from us. It lives in all our hearts to accuse God and to maintain ourselves. However, if the Lord opens our eyes and enlightens us by His Spirit, we will see that we do not want this gracious King to reign over us.

No, unbelief is not just a sad inability, but it is our own guilt.

The gift of God

That is one side of the coin of truth. The other side, however, is that salvation is a gift from God. If a sinner may believe, it is not because he is wiser, better, or meeker than others, but this is the gift of God. Then we see that we did not want to bow under God and His Word. However, He has a willing people in the day of His power. We will perish because of our own fault and guilt; but if we are saved, it will be free grace only. Thus man never gets the credit and the honor; there is nothing of which to boast. So easily also God's children forget where the Lord found them, and that whatever they have received was by mercy alone.

Those who, by grace, may believe in Jesus Christ and may take refuge to Him, will receive eternal life. The apostle says, this faith is “not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.”

The doctrine of the Remonstrants

Faith is not a work, an accomplishment of man. Rome taught the meritorious character of good works. The reformers rightly saw that this would obscure the grace of God, and they threw that Romish doctrine out the front door. However, the Remonstrants, by teaching the meritorious character of faith, as a good work, brought this doctrine back into the church through the back door.

What they did not realize was that their doctrine is such a comfortless teaching. God's children learn, at the school of grace, how dependent they are. They have no strength, no ability to believe. To them it is a glad tiding that faith is a gift of God. But to those who have never been broken down and stripped by the Spirit's discovering work, such teaching is a stumbling block and an offense to their pride.

A gospel for the poor

If while walking in New York City, I were to meet some rich business man and offer him gifts to help and support him, the man would be offended. He does not need them. However, there are also beggars there, sitting on the street. If I would walk up to such a poor creature and would offer him a generous gift, he would be overwhelmed and receive it with gratitude.

The poor have the gospel preached unto them. We are all poor creatures, and the message of salvation comes to all who live under the gospel. We are responsible for what we do with this. Our unbelief is our own fault. But how necessary it is to be made poor, to lose our self-righteousness and all our works, to see that our money of merchandise has no value. It cannot satisfy the justice of God. Then our hand becomes a beggar's hand, as the Canaanitish woman supplicated for just a crumb from the Master's table.

Not unto us

Often God's people still complain about their unbelief. They grieve about this, if it is well, and they ask,

“Grant life unto my soul, then my mouth will praise Thee. Give me to no longer distrust Thee, but to believe Thy Word.”

They know that God alone works faith, but He also brings it into exercise. They also learn more and more that it will be an eternal wonder of God's faithfulness and grace if they once will be enabled to say with Paul in 2 Timothy 4:7, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.”

No, then there will be no honor for man, but humble gratitude and adoration, because the Lord alone has done it. This will be the confession they will make: “Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us, but unto Thy Name give glory, for Thy mercy and for Thy truth's sake.” Then God will be glorified in His own work and free gifts.

— Rev. C. Vogelaar

— to be continued —

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Bekijk de hele uitgave van dinsdag 1 april 2003

The Banner of Truth | 28 Pagina's

Canons of Dordt (6)

Bekijk de hele uitgave van dinsdag 1 april 2003

The Banner of Truth | 28 Pagina's

PDF Bekijken