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Canons of Dordt (13)
Although surrounded by mighty enemies, the church of God is kept by the power of God. Whatever may fall, God's children will never fall away from His election. The Lord is faithful to the end, and He is able to save them to the uttermost.
There can be so much uncertainty and fear in our hearts when we look at the world in which we are living, and also when we consider the condition of the church. We can feel so helpless when we see the mighty powers that attack also our families, seeking to pull away our young people from the truth and from a lifestyle which is according to God's Word. We can also be afraid when we see what lives in our heart, and God's church is like Jehoshaphat: they have no might against the enemies that come against them.
Blessed are they who may find their safety in the almighty and unchangeable God, who is a refuge for a weak and needy people. God's decrees will not be changed. His election is therefore unchangeable, as we also read in Article 12:
The elect in due time, though in various degrees and in different measures, attain the assurance of this their eternal and unchangeable election, not by inquisitively prying into the secret and deep things of God, but by observing in themselves, with a spiritual joy and holy pleasure, the infallible fruits of election pointed out in the Word of God—such as a true faith in Christ, filial fear, a godly sorrow for sin, a hungering and thirsting after righteousness, etc.
God's Word speaks clearly of His sovereign election of sinners, but the question is, can we know whether we are chosen? Is it possible to be assured of this eternal and unchangeable election?
Rome would say, “No, this is not possible, for man, while in this life, can never be sure of this. It depends on whether he keeps up the good work and with the help of the Lord earns this salvation.”
The Remonstrants also spoke about election as being a quite uncertain and changeable matter, so that we can never be assured of our election to salvation. However, our fathers have confessed, against Rome and especially against the Remonstrants, that this assurance can be obtained. The elect attain this assurance in due time, which is God's time. God is sovereign in His leadings with His people. He gives assurance in His time and in His way, though in various degrees and in different measures.
Differences in the family of God
It is clear that our fathers believed that there are different steps or stages in the life of grace. Some deny these steps in grace, but this is contrary to what God's Word says. We read in 1 John 2:12-14 that there are little children, young men, and fathers in God's church.
In the family of God, just as in an earthly family, there are people of different stature and development. There are babies who have just been born. All they can do is cry, hunger, and eat. They cannot explain themselves, but they want to be in church all the time, and they have a hunger for the Word of God.
There are little children; they may have received some encouragement, some hope, when they heard their name proclaimed from the pulpit. But yet they are subject to many doubts and fears. There are times when they believe God knows of them, of their tears and struggles, their impossibilities. But they also see their guilt, and how will they ever be reconciled to Him?
There are also those who have been brought to the end of their own efforts to bring themselves back to God, and with whom salvation became utterly impossible. However, the Lord showed them the Way of salvation outside of themselves. A door of hope was opened in the valley of Achor. These were unforgettable times, when the possibility of salvation outside of themselves was shown to be so extensive that they believed that, since it was possible for them, then the whole world could be saved.
There are those in the family of God to whom Christ has been revealed, who learned to see something of His beauty and could say with the bride, “He is altogether lovely.” Yet, when there are times that Christ hides Himself again behind the justice of God, they have to meet a holy and righteous God, and they are still burdened with the burden of sin and iniquity. What a great blessing it is when the Lord brings His church to the knowledge of a resurrected Savior who was raised for their justification. Then the burden of guilt is taken from them, and they may experience what Jesus spoke to His disciples, when they were gathered behind doors which were shut, “Peace be unto you.” What a blessed, unspeakable peace there is when God will not be wroth with them nor rebuke them.
There are those in the family who with full assurance may know that the Judge has become a reconciled God and Father in and through the finished work of His Son. It is the Holy Spirit who seals this to their heart and testifies with their spirit that they are the children of God.
Thus it is evident that in the family of God not all are of the same stature and not all have the same measure of faith and assurance. They all belong to the family, however, and the Father loves the little babies and children as much as the older ones. Sometimes the older ones can be jealous of the little ones in grace who are so tender, so sincere, and who have such a beggar's life. If it is well, small and great will belong to those of whom the Lord speaks in Zephaniah 3:12, “I will also leave in the midst of thee an afflicted and poor people, and they shall trust in the Name of the LORD.”
Assurance can be obtained
Though they hold that there are different degrees of assurance, our fathers confirm that such assurance can be obtained. However, it is not obtained by inquisitively prying into the secret and deep things of God. No, the Lord does not give this assurance by all kinds of very special revelations outside of His Word. We should also not try to look into the Book of Life or expect it from dreams or visions. God's Word should be our guide.
We read in 1 Corinthians 2:12, “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.”
The Holy Spirit always works through God's Word. That Word reveals what the infallible fruits of election are. if the Spirit gives light upon God's own work within us, and we may see those scriptural fruits of it, then there may be spiritual joy and holy pleasure in the hearts of the true believers.
Fruits of election
What are then those infallible fruits of election?
Our fathers mentioned the following: 1) A true faith in Christ, 2) a filial fear, 3) a godly sorrow for sin, and 4) a hungering and thirsting after righteousness.
When they speak about a true faith, this implies that there is also imitation, a faith which is not the true work of the Lord. Some have objected that it is not pastoral and helpful to point the believer to those fruits within him, because by doing this you would throw him back on himself, and thus there never could be certainty and assurance. However, this is not true. For it says: true faith in Christ. And when there is truly that faith in Him, then there is a going out of ourselves unto Him, a fleeing, a taking refuge to Him to be hidden behind His blood, to be clothed with His righteousness. This is faith that cannot rest outside of Christ. It also cannot not rest in frames and some evidences of new life, although those can be encouraging. It can rest only in His perfect and finished work, in Christ Himself. He is the Man of whom we read in Isaiah 32:2, who is “as an hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.”
Filial fear is not a slavish fear, the fear of punishment or of the wrath of God, but a fear with the reverence of a child, a fear which works by love. Then we do not want to grieve a good-doing God any longer. We want to please, obey, and to honor Him. Then we have something of what Joseph expressed when he was greatly tempted, “How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” The Lord is so worthy to be feared and honored.
A godly sorrow for sin does not mean that sin troubles us just because it brings God's wrath upon us, or because it makes us shameful in the eyes of people. No, the love of God which has been shed abroad in our heart makes us to mourn because we have offended and grieved such a holy, just, and merciful God. The more we learn to know of God's grace and what He has done in Christ for such a sinner, and when we consider also the price that had to be paid for sin and we may see the bleeding Savior on the cross of Golgotha, the more we will mourn about our sin.
The hungering and thirsting after righteousness is a hungering and thirsting after the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ. Then I cannot live without Him any longer. I need Him and cry, “Give me Jesus, else I die.” For outside of Him there is no life, but an eternal destruction of the soul. How precious and necessary this Savior becomes to a burdened and sin-laden believer. How he longs to be washed in His blood and to be clothed with His righteousness.
No, not all God's children know the exact time when the Lord began His work of grace in their heart, but these fruits should be seen in our life. “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves” (2 Corinthians 13:5).
We are traveling to eternity, and where the tree falls, there it will be. What a blessed fruit it is when we know what the apostle speaks of in 2 Corinthians 7:10, “For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of.”
That is not a sorrow because of the consequences of sin, but about sin itself and about the separation between God and us. Then we also say with David, in Psalm 51:4, “Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Thy sight: that Thou mightest be justified when Thou speakest, and be clear when Thou judgest.”
Then we long for the righteousness of Christ, which also means walking according to God's holy will in His ways. If they may see something of this in their life, there may be a true spiritual joy in the hearts of God's children, for they may see the tokens of God's work, and He will finish perfectly what He for them has undertaken. Those hungry ones will be satisfied, those mourners will be comforted, and those longing ones will obtain their desire. Is this also your desire? Do you know of this sorrow in your life? Would you like to be delivered from that awful, wretched sinfulness, and to live without sin before Him?
The Lord grants the desire of those who fear Him. They will walk in the light of His countenance and give Him the glory and the praise for what He has so graciously given to them.
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Bekijk de hele uitgave van zaterdag 1 november 2003
The Banner of Truth | 30 Pagina's
Bekijk de hele uitgave van zaterdag 1 november 2003
The Banner of Truth | 30 Pagina's