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Canons of Dordt (24)
It is an eternal wonder that God has provided a perfect Lamb for totally lost sinners. He is the only Remedy for incurable diseases, the precious Surety for those who deserve eternal death and have no penny to pay. God did not spare His own Son but gave Him as the Savior, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. This faith is a gift of God. It is the faith that believes God's promises for undeserving and guilty sinners. Those who may take refuge in Him will not be put to shame. He receives sinners and eats with them. He has promised that those who come to Him, pleading for His mercy, will not be sent empty away.
Of these promises our fathers have spoken in the Second Head, Article 5.
Moreover, the promise of the gospel is, that whosoever believeth in Christ crucified, shall not perish, but have everlasting life. This promise, together with the command to repent and believe, ought to be declared and published to all nations, and to all persons promiscuously and without distinction, to whom God out of His good pleasure sends the gospel.
This is indeed a very important article, one that deals with the proclamation of the gospel, the preaching. In this preaching sinners are called, as in Isaiah 45:22, "Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else."
When Israel had sinned in the desert, God, in His mercy, gave a means of deliverance from the poison of the serpents. Moses had to put a brazen serpent upon a pole and lift this up as high as possible. He had to call to everyone, "Look unto this serpent," and whoever did so was healed. Christ Himself used this illustration in His conversation with Nicodemus. He said in John 3:14-15, "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life."
In the preaching Christ has to be lifted up, and it has to be proclaimed that whosoever believes in Him will not perish, but that he will have eternal life. It is the promise of the gospel that those who with true faith may look unto Him will be saved.
The certainty of God's promises
This article speaks about these promises. God's Word speaks of many promises. However, in this article it is stated in the singular: "The promise of the gospel is ...."
This means that the promise of salvation by faith is actually a summary of all the promises which are in God's Word for His Church. These promises are given by the God of Truth, who cannot lie and whose faithfulness and mercy are everlasting. The promises are given in Christ Jesus, the Amen, the true and faithful Witness, who as Head, Surety, and Mediator has merited all the promises of the covenant of grace, confirms them, and applies them by the Holy Spirit, who is given in the hearts of His people. We read in 2 Corinthians 1:20, "For all the promises of God in Him are yea, and in Him Amen, unto the glory of God by us."
God will surely fulfill His promises. They are not dependent upon our willingness or worthiness.
The Bible is an excellent treasure chest of promises. However, many speak so lightly about these promises, as if it is in our power just to take whatever we like out of this treasure chest, and become so rich in our own eyes. It is such a difference whether the Lord by His Holy Spirit brings a promise to our heart, or whether we by mere contemplation try to enrich ourselves with these promises. When God gives something, it will humble us and also give holy activity, wrestling, with those gifts. Then we will indeed wrestle with these promises and plead upon them before God's holy countenance. However, when we enrich ourselves with these promises, it will not humble us but make us proud and very pleased with ourselves, and it will also not give any true pleadings at the throne of grace. The Lord also makes room for what He promises, so that His promise becomes so necessary, suitable, and precious to us.
Preached to all the hearers
When we speak about the promise of the gospel, however, we can say this is the good tiding itself. And those who come to Christ will receive everlasting life. This promise, together with the command to repent and believe, has to be preached to all the hearers of the gospel. No, it is not to be preached just to the elect. What preacher would know who these are? Also it is not to be preached only to repenting sinners. It would be a blessing if there would be many such sinners who repent, who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit, for indeed, to such sinners the promises become precious. Here, however, our fathers speak of God's command. He sends the gospel to those whom He gathers under the proclamation of His precious Word. And all who hear this Word must hear that God has opened a way in which sinners may return to Him and can be saved. That Way is Christ crucified; it is His everlasting righteousness that saves sinners from death and restores them into fellowship with God. This way of salvation should be declared to all persons promiscuously and without distinction.
It was not without reason that our Reformed fathers have stated this against the Remonstrants. The Remonstrants argued as follows: A preacher who does not believe that Jesus died for all people cannot preach the full gospel to all people, since the doctrine of election and particular grace is an obstacle to this. The Remonstrants said, "We Remonstrants can say, 'Christ has died for you all'; but you Reformed cannot and may not do this." Indeed, this is true. The true preaching does not say that Christ died for all people. This would be a lie and in conflict with God's Word. The true preaching of the gospel is not the proclamation in the Name of the Lord that all people who are lost in Adam will be saved by the Mediator Jesus Christ. No, the preaching of the truth says that for lost sinners the Lord has opened a way o f salvation in the blood of Jesus Christ. It does not say that He died for all people, but that He died for sinners. No sinner is too unclean, too wicked and guilty, that he could not be cleansed by Christ's blood and be sanctified. The true preaching comes to sinners and tells them by whom they can be saved.
How Christ and the sinner come together
However, it says more. It also says in what way this will happen. It is in the way of repentance and faith. Indeed, we must preach a rich Christ and a poor sinner, and no one can speak too highly about the excellence of the treasures which Christ has merited, of the preciousness of His blood and righteousness. It must be stated that no one is too poor for Him; no, for a poor sinner and a rich Christ belong together. However, the preaching should also teil us how these two come together. What is the way in which this rich Christ and a poor sinner come together? It is the way o f repentance and faith.
Repentance means a turning around, which is a change of heart, a new heart, a new life with new desires, but also a new hatred. Then we will hate sin with a deadly hatred, and we will long to be delivered from all iniquities; but there also will be love to God, His Word, His law, and a longing for holiness. This will be evident in our life, in the course and direction we take. We will turn our back on the world and its service and choose the way that Moses and Ruth chose by grace. Repentance also means that we lose our own righteousness, that we become bankrupt before God. For such repenting ones Christ becomes so precious when He is lifted up in the gospel. We would truly desire to be delivered from all sin and to serve God, since He is so worthy to be honored.
The way of faith
The way in which Christ and the sinner come together is also the way of faith. Many talk about faith, but do we really know what it is? Alexander Comrie has written such a precious book about the different aspects and characteristics of faith. We recommend the reading of this book to all of you. This is his A.B.C. of Faith. It is to be feared that many take historical faith for true saving faith.
What is true faith? This true faith is a looking away from yourself and what you are and what you have done. It is a looking away from all your works, your frames, and your piety. It brings you with empty hands before the Lord. You learn to die to all that is not Christ. Such a believer has been taught by the Holy Spirit that even his best works cannot please God, and that outside of Christ he is condemnable before Him. This will be learned in a way of dying, which is a painful process, to all that is o f self. No, let us not imagine that it is such an easy thing to believe in Christ. It goes against our natural pride, our work-holiness, and all that we want to present to Him. True faith is an empty beggar's hand stretched forth unto a rich Christ. Then we come like the leper, " if Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean." Or we plead with the centurion, being unworthy that He would come under our roof, "Speak the word only."
It is also a taking refuge to Him as the Canaanitish woman did, who agreed that she was a little dog, unclean and unworthy, but who nevertheless said, "Lord, there is so much bread with Thee. May this dog have a crumb of it?" Such beggars will not be disappointed.
This gospel preaching should be brought to all creatures, also to the heathen and those who live in the darkness o f superstition and ignorance. It is the calling of the church, as it is also the calling of God's servants, to bring this gospel to all who may hear it. The minister of the Word should preach law and gospel, death and life, justice and grace, and he should do this with a compassionate and praying heart, as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 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.
It is such a wonderful but also responsible task which the Lord has laid upon the weak shoulders o f sinful men. May the Lord give grace and love to do this work in obedience unto Him. May many yet be caught in the gospel net, so that His kingdom may come. Then His great and glorious Name will be glorified in us and our children.
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Bekijk de hele uitgave van vrijdag 1 oktober 2004
The Banner of Truth | 28 Pagina's
Bekijk de hele uitgave van vrijdag 1 oktober 2004
The Banner of Truth | 28 Pagina's