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Canons of Dordt (42)

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Canons of Dordt (42)

7 minuten leestijd

Although the work of God’s grace in the hearts of sinners is a mystery and cannot be fully comprehended, this does not mean that it remains something we do not know. God gives His people knowledge by experience. They obtain rest from the knowledge that God leads, keeps, and cares for them. This knowledge also humbles them before God’s countenance, that by faith they may praise Him for His undeserved mercies.

Of this faith we read in the Third and Fourth Heads, Article 14.

Faith is therefore to he considered as the gift of God, not on account of its being offered by God to man, to be accepted or rejected at his pleasure; but because it is in reality conferred, breathed, and infused into him; or even because God bestows the power or ability to believe, and then expects that man should by the exercise of his own free will, consent to the terms of salvation and actually believe in Christ; but because He who works in man both to will and to do, and indeed all things in all, produces both the will to believe and the act of believing also.

The exalted Mediator at the right hand of God pours heavenly graces upon sinners. He did not only merit salvation, but He applies it as well. When speaking about the truth, we often state that it is found where God is exalted to the highest and man is abased to the lowest. Although this can easily be stated, experiencing it is something else. We are not so soon truly poor in spirit and mourning about our poverty; we are not so soon meek, bowing under God, and hungering and thirsting for righteousness. It is necessary that God’s grace empties us and shows us our total dependence on God’s grace. It is true that this truth can be misused, as so many truths can. Nevertheless, it is the teaching of Scripture. We read in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.”

Resistance against the truth

It is no wonder that, throughout the ages, enmity and resistance have arisen against the truth in which God receives all the honor for His own work. Not only Pelagians, who really deny the fall of man, and semi-Pelagians, who believe that man being sick through the fall only needs helping grace, but also the Remonstrants taught that man contributes something to his salvation. Faith is a gift of God, but the Remonstrants taught that man, if he wishes, is able to believe. He just decides to do so. Even if they still spoke of a gift of God, they described this gift as a certain God-given ability to come to faith. This ability, however, was one that man could use, or not use, according to his own choice.

What a comfortless doctrine it is, to speak of man’s choice, of his pleasure, instead of the good pleasure of God! What a treacherous, sandy foundation to build upon—the willingness of man! In the teaching of the Remonstrants, God offered faith as His gift to man, but He leaves it up to man to accept or to reject this gift. The decision concerning man’s salvation is laid in the hand of an unwilling and helpless creature. God by His Spirit teaches sinners how unwilling and unable they are to believe. He has a willing people in the day of His power.

Essence and exercise of faith

God Himself plants faith into the heart of the sinner whom He regenerates. As a newborn child, if it is well, has two hands, so the Lord gives that sinner the hand of faith. The hand is then the essence or “habitus” of faith. That principle, this hand, is there when new life has been given.

It is something else, however, to use this hand; thus there is a difference between the essence and the exercise, the “actus,” of faith. The essence of faith includes knowledge as well as trust. But as the little child needs strength, ability, and growth in order to use its hands, so it is also with the regenerated believer. In the exercises of faith the Lord teaches the believer more and more that there is no expectation from himself, but also that His Word and promises are reliable. Faith in exercise, by the work of the Holy Spirit, believes that this Word and these promises are given not only to others, but also to him. Thus there comes more firmness, more confidence in his life according to the measure of the grace given to him.

Faith is a gift of God

Our fathers said what God’s Word teaches. Faith is not just man’s decision, but it is a gift of God; it is not only offered, but it is infused into him, planted in his heart. It is the work of the Holy Spirit, who comes into the heart of this chosen sinner and makes it a temple for Himself. He plants that faith into their hearts, but He also strengthens it, that they may learn to rest more and more upon the perfect work of the Mediator, upon His Word and promises.

It is understandable that proud man resists this teaching, because it is so humiliating for his flesh. But for a sinner who is broken down, emptied, and stripped from all his goodness, works, and righteousness, who can show only a bankrupt and totally corrupt life, this is the gospel which gives hope. If then it is truly God alone who gives and strengthens this faith, then even such a stubborn, ignorant, rebellious, unbelieving creature as the sinner feels himself to be, can still be saved.

Those who have learned to know something of the necessity but also of the suitableness of the redemptive work of the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, are grieved when people try to take something away from Christ’s complete work and ascribe it to man.

Adoring and praising God

Although some who call themselves Christians boast in their choice, in what they did for Jesus, God teaches His children a different boasting, as in Psalm 115, “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto Thy Name give glory, for Thy mercy, and for Thy truth’s sake.” In that boasting is adoration and praising of God, who looked upon one who never would have asked for Him.

Yes, it is true that the Lord proffers peace and pardon, and we are responsible for what we do with the calling of the gospel that comes to us. It is the preaching of the Lord Jesus Himself, “Repent ye, and believe the gospel.” That call to repentance and faith may not be weakened or concealed. The apostle warns in Hebrews 2:3a, “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?” We will perish because of our own unwillingness and rebellion against God. All the excuses we made as to our inability and helplessness will then be seen to have been in vain. There is One who is able to save sinners to the uttermost, and it is our fault if we do not want Him to reign over us. To neglect a salvation so great that it cannot be expressed in human words is a serious and horrible sin.

If we have been willing to surrender to Him and have come to an agreement with His way of salvation, however, we will never be able to ascribe this to our own willingness. Then we will say, “It was only God’s sovereign good pleasure.” Of this good pleasure the church will sing forever. They will give Him the honor, who alone is worthy to receive it.

— Rev. C. Vogelaar
(Kalamazoo, MI)

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Bekijk de hele uitgave van zaterdag 1 april 2006

The Banner of Truth | 24 Pagina's

Canons of Dordt (42)

Bekijk de hele uitgave van zaterdag 1 april 2006

The Banner of Truth | 24 Pagina's

PDF Bekijken