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Canons of Dordt (43)

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Canons of Dordt (43)

10 minuten leestijd

It is the Lord who plants faith in the hearts of sinners. Faith is a gift of God, not a decision of man. Proud man resists this teaching because it is humiliating for his flesh. He likes to boast in his choice, in what he does for Jesus. God, however, teaches His children a different boasting, as in Psalm 115:1, “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto Thy Name give glory, for Thy mercy and for Thy truth’s sake.”

In this boasting is adoration. Those who have been made willing to surrender to Him and have come to an agreement with His way of salvation will never ascribe it to their own willingness. They will say, “It was only a gift of grace, it was God’s sovereign good pleasure.” Of this grace we also read in the Third and Fourth Heads, Article 15.

God is under no obligation to confer this grace upon any; for how can He be indebted to man, who had no previous gifts to bestow, as a foundation for such recompense? Nay, who has nothing of his own but sin and falsehood? He therefore who becomes the subject of this grace, owes eternal gratitude to God, and gives Him thanks forever. Whoever is not made partaker thereof, is either altogether regardless of these spiritual gifts and satisfied with his own condition, or is in no apprehension of danger and vainly boasts the possession of that which he has not. With respect to those who make an external profession of faith and live regular lives, we are bound, after the example of the apostle, to judge and speak of them in the most favorable manner. For the secret recesses of the heart are unknown to us. And as to others, who have not yet been called, it is our duty to pray for them to God, who calls the things that are not, as if they were. But we are in no wise to conduct ourselves towards them with haughtiness, as if we had made ourselves to differ.

It was grace alone that the Lord gave those precious gifts of salvation to enemies. Grace is something unmerited, something to which we have no rights. It is not a reward for what we have done. It is not true that, because of something we do, God is obliged to give us gifts of mercy. In Adam’s fall we have lost all our rights. God was not obliged to grant Adam the beauty of His image and the glory and the beauty which man had as the crown of God’s creation. How much less after the fall, in which God became our Judge, and we became guilty before Him! We are indebted to God, but He has no obligation to us. The only reward to which we are entitled we find in Romans 6:23a, “For the wages of sin is death.”

Those who do not know what grace is are proud and are content with themselves, perhaps with their orthodox profession. God is the great Potter, and He may do with the clay what pleases Him. “Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?” (Romans 9:21).

True, it is in our flesh and blood to try to earn God’s gifts and to present something to Him for which He should reward us. How necessary it is to learn that even our righteousnesses are as filthy rags! We cannot give anything to God but sin and falsehood. It is not a flattering picture that our fathers give of you and me, but blessed are those who may learn to know this as a sad and humbling reality in their lives.

Reasons for gratitude

If God gives us grace, it is only for reasons in Himself. And if we are the recipients of His grace, we owe to God eternal gratitude. Grace humbles man deeply before God and causes him to say, “Lord, who am I, and what is my house, that Thou hast brought me hitherto?”

Then we become, like Paul, less than the least of the saints, the most undeserving of all God’s blessings. Then there will also be a longing in our hearts to live to God’s honor, not to grieve Him anymore by our sins, but to praise and thank Him as He is worthy. Is it not a cause of much sadness and grief in the hearts of God’s dear children that there is but so little true gratitude in their hearts? How do they weep about their barrenness, their ingratitude, the corruption within, the sins of their lives, by which they grieve such a good-doing, gracious God! It causes them to cry out with Paul, “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”

The same apostle may also say, however, “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” How dependent they are upon the ministry of this precious Jesus, their Lord, also for the life of gratitude.

Those who do not receive this grace

Those who do not receive this grace are careless and content with themselves. They do not see their need, do not believe their poverty and misery, and therefore they do not even desire His grace. With all their actions they testify with Job 21:14, “Depart from us; for we desire not the knowledge of Thy ways.” They consider the world and its riches more valuable than the grace of God.

There are not only those who are pleased with themselves, but also those that are careless. They rest upon false foundations. They vainly boast of possessing that which they do not have. They may have worked in God’s vineyard, perhaps have even preached His Word. They will say, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy Name?” They have done many wonderful works in His Name, but He will profess unto them, “I never knew you, depart from Me, ye that work iniquity.” What a frightening reality it is that we have such treacherous hearts that we are able to deceive ourselves for eternity.

The upright in Zion, God’s children, are afraid that they might deceive themselves. They do not trust their feelings. They do not become angry when they are lovingly questioned by office-bearers about the ground on which the house of their hope rests, and admonished to examine their own hearts to see whether they might not be foolish builders. No, the upright say with Psalm 139:23-24, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

How do we view others?

The second part of this article speaks about how we should view others. We have to realize that God alone knows the hearts. We can be busy with others, measuring them with our measuring stick, and we may think that we can decide who is converted or not or what may be missing. But sad to say, many forget themselves. We can stand so high that we haughtily judge others.

There is a well-known story of a minister who, when traveling during the week to preach in another congregation, asked an elder who picked him up from the train, “Are there people of God in your congregation?” The answer of the elder was short, “No, not one, except myself.”

The minister’s answer was very short as well, “Then I don’t believe you at all.”

The apostles have instructed us to be careful in judging others, but also not hastily to lay hands on anyone. Many are inclined to compare others with someone who is, in their eyes, a highly esteemed child of God whom they have known very well, perhaps their mother or a grandfather. If the person is different from these, they hasten to put big question marks behind his profession.

God’s Word should be our guide

Who are we to decide such solemn matters of life or death? God is Judge, and He alone. His Word should be our guide. If what people say is in clear conflict with God’s Word, then we are called to address this issue, to admonish them, and to prove from God’s Word the error of their ways. Our own experiences should never be the norm; let God’s Word speak.

When you visit people who have made a public profession of their belonging to the followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, listen closely whether God has spoken to them and instructed them by His Word. Then house visitation will be soul visitation, where God’s Word should give the direction.

It is true, where the heart-renewing work of the Holy Spirit is present, the fruits of the new life will not be missing. There will be a godly sorrow, a hungering and thirsting after righteousness, a fleeing in faith to the blood of Christ, the mortification of the old man, and the resurrection of the new man. Our fathers say that we have to judge and speak in the most favorable manner of those who make an external profession of faith and live regular lives, for the secret recesses of the heart are unknown to us. We read in Matthew 7:2, “For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.”

Prayer for the unconverted

There is, however, another thing we may and should do: we should pray for those who are still unconverted. Grace does not grudge or envy others, but it wishes them that which is good. It likes to welcome others also into the flock of the Good Shepherd. It wishes salvation to the worst of sinners. God is able to bring the most hardened enemy to His feet. It is our duty to pray for this. How is it in our inner rooms? Are we storming the throne of grace for the conversion not only of our loved ones but also of those whom we know and meet in church and in our daily lives? Are we really beseeching the Lord to bless the labors of His servants, of evangelists, and of missionaries? Paul wrote in Romans 10:1, “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.”

Finally, if it is well, then we know that we remain wretched sinners, and that in us, that is in our flesh, dwelleth no good thing, that there is no reason at all to exalt ourselves above others. “For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive?” (1 Corinthians 4:7).

No, then there is no reason to boast in anything of ourselves, but, like Mephibosheth, we will say, “What is Thy servant, that Thou shouldest look upon such a dead dog as I am?” Then we will say, “It is through Thee, through Thee alone, for Thy eternal good pleasure’s sake.”

That beautiful Psalm 22, a Messianic psalm in which we read of the inexpressible suffering of the Mediator, speaks also of the fruits of His suffering. “A seed shall serve Him.” Let that word give hope in the midst of all discouraging circumstances. Let it be our prayer that the Lord may fulfill this promise also among us and our children. Then the poet says, “They shall come, and shall declare His righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that He hath done this.” And this will be the praise of poor, but saved, sinners.

— Rev. C. Vogelaar
(Kalamazoo, MI)

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Bekijk de hele uitgave van Monday 1 May 2006

The Banner of Truth | 24 Pagina's

Canons of Dordt (43)

Bekijk de hele uitgave van Monday 1 May 2006

The Banner of Truth | 24 Pagina's

PDF Bekijken