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Canons of Dordt (38)

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Canons of Dordt (38)

8 minuten leestijd

It is such a blessing if we may live under the preaching of the gospel, which speaks of the sacrifice of Christ and its sufficiency, and calls men to turn unto Him with true faith and repentance. That many do not come is not the fault of the gospel. The cause of man's perdition lies in his own unbelief and disobedience. Therefore it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for those who have rejected the proclamation of the only Savior.

Some, however, will come and believe in Him. This we read in the Third and Fourth Heads, Article 10.

But that others who are called by the gospel obey the call and are converted is not to be ascribed to the proper exercise of free will, whereby one distinguishes himself above others, equally furnished with grace sufficient for faith and conversions, as the proud heresy of Pelagius maintains; but it must be wholly ascribed to God, who as He has chosen His own from eternity in Christ, so He confers upon them faith and repentance, rescues them from the power of darkness, and translates them into the kingdom of His own Son, that they may show forth the praises of Him who hath called them out of darkness into His marvelous light; and may glory not in themselves, but in the Lord according to the testimony of the apostles in various places.

The call to salvation comes to all who live under the ministry of the gospel, but not all come and receive salvation. Why is there this difference among the hearers of the same Word of God? Pelagius, a British monk living around 400 A.D., not only denied the immortality of man as the image-bearer of God, but he also denied the fall of Adam and original sin. Pelagius taught that all who hear the Word of God receive grace equally, which enables them to believe and turn unto the Lord. Christ is only an example to encourage man to live in a way that pleases God. Man has a free will, Pelagius said, and man decides whether or not he will come to Christ.

Also the Remonstrants believe that man has a free will to believe in Christ if he wants, and that Christ died for all people to make salvation possible. But whether we will be saved or not depends on the use of our own free will, and it is not the will and work of God.

The Reformed fathers emphasized that whoever remains in his unbelief and does not repent is guilty before God, and that it is man's own fault if he perishes.

God makes a difference

Salvation, however, is the work of God alone. The honor will not go to the creature, but it belongs to Him. Salvation is the work of a triune God. The Father has chosen a people, not better or worthier than others, in Christ. The great Builder of God's church, the spiritual temple, has chosen all the living stones which will be incorporated into this building. All the elect are given to Christ by the Father, and they are His.

Those given to Christ are bought with a precious price. Therefore, in the hour of God's good pleasure, they will also be called out of darkness into His marvelous light. There is a sincere calling of God to all the hearers of the gospel to believe and, with true repentance, to turn unto Him. This calling is not to be considered an insignificant matter. We are fully accountable to God for what we do with the warnings and invitations that come to us. Yet when God calls His chosen people, who also were enemies, out of the darkness of their state of unbelief, He does so by the irresistible power of the Holy Spirit, who applies the Word to the heart of the sinner. This is the effectual or internal calling by which the spiritually dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God. The Holy Spirit is the Author of faith, who grafts them into Christ by a true faith.

Faith and repentance

It is remarkable how often our fathers spoke of a true faith. There is so much that, though it glitters, is not gold. There is a historical faith by which man believes the truth of sin and salvation, but it does not change his heart. There is a temporary faith that may cause emotional responses to God's Word, of fear and even of gladness. But also this faith leaves man in his natural enmity. No, true faith is wrought by the Holy Ghost through the gospel in the hearts of sinners, so that they become new creatures. They mourn about their sins, and with heartfelt sorrow and contrition they repent and return to God.

In that faith there is love to God's attributes, so that we desire to be saved in an honest way. The sinner learns that from his side there is no way back to God anymore. What an eternal wonder it is when the way of salvation is revealed to us in the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ.

This irresistible, internal calling transfers the sinner from the dominion of Satan to the glorious kingdom of Christ. This is a kingdom of grace, in which all the citizens learn, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). Those who are delivered from the dominion of Satan will serve their precious Master, Jesus Christ, willingly and with love, denying themselves and following Him, hearing their cross behind Him.

A blessed service

He calls them not just so they can be happy, but that they may show forth His praises. This is the purpose of God's saving work—that He will be praised and honored.

This service is a service of love. We read in Psalm 110:3, “Thy people shall be willing in the day of Thy power.” Such a day of God's power is indeed necessary in order to bring us to His feet and to bow under His rule. This service is not like the service of the devil, which destroys man, keeps him in bondage, and leaves him empty, miserable, and wretched; the Lord's service gives true happiness.

All boasting of man is excluded. True worship of God for this salvation will bring man into the dust and cause him to say, “Why me?”

The Lord does not only begin this work of salvation, but He preserves and maintains it in spite of all resistance from the old, sinful nature in the regenerated person, in spite also of the raging of Satan and the enmity of the world.

So then “it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy.”

There is much boasting, also in the religious world, but it is boasting of what man has done, what the “believer” has accomplished. The Holy Spirit, however, teaches another boasting, in holy adoration for what God has done, and He alone, for and within them.

Do you know this boasting? It is to be desired that God's true children would indeed show more of this humble boasting, so others might become jealous of them.

Let the fact that salvation is God's work alone not discourage you who are strangers of this work. Because it is God's work alone, there is hope for lost and ruined sinners. Ask Him to teach you this truth. “Seek ye the LORD while He may be found, call ye upon Him while He is near.” Place yourself under the means of grace. Do not leave your place in God's house empty; search the Scriptures; read something that can give instruction; and, under God's blessing, may you be made wise unto salvation.

People of God, here your mouth often is closed and you dare not speak, for your heart condemns you because of your sins and shortcomings; but the time will come that you will be delivered from self, sin, and the power of Satan, and you will receive your wish. Then you will sing and praise Him for what He so graciously has given you, to the glory of His Name.

— Rev. C. Vogelaar (Kalamazoo, MI)

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Bekijk de hele uitgave van donderdag 1 december 2005

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Canons of Dordt (38)

Bekijk de hele uitgave van donderdag 1 december 2005

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PDF Bekijken