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Canons of Dordt (54)

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Canons of Dordt (54)

9 minuten leestijd

There is a rich comfort for a weak and, in themselves, helpless people. Their perseverance is secure in the will of a Triune God. The certainty lies in the good pleasure and unchangeable counsel of the Father. This good pleasure will prosper in the hand of Christ. He has redeemed His church with a price, and thus He merited life for them. He also gives this life, but not so that they themselves have to keep and preserve it. Their salvation is sure in His intercession for them. The Holy Spirit who began the good work in their heart will also finish it. All those who have received the Holy Spirit’s saving work in their heart will be kept as His property. Therein lies the guarantee of the safe arrival of all true pilgrims, small and great, into the land of rest to receive the inheritance prepared for them. What a comfort it is to know this with certainty.

True believers may be assured of their perseverance as we read in Fifth Head, article 9.

“Of this preservation of the elect to salvation, and of their perseverance in the faith, true believers for themselves may and do obtain assurance according to the measure of their faith, whereby they arrive at the certain persuasion, that they ever will continue true and living members of the church; and that they experience forgiveness of sins, and will at last inherit eternal life.”

God’s children are prone to halt and stumble; they cannot keep themselves even for a moment and would perish if the Lord would not preserve them. However, their perseverance is firm and secure in the hand of an almighty and faithful God. When faith is in exercise, they will say with the poet in Psalm 138:8a, “The LORD will perfect that which concerneth me: Thy mercy, O LORD, endureth forever.”

That is the certainty of faith. Yet they remain so dependent upon the Lord’s faithful and preserving care, and therefore the poet continues with a prayer in verse 8b, “forsake not the works of Thine own hands.”

A comfortless teaching

We are often afraid of a Christendom that is always so sure, does not seem to know of any assaults of the enemy, and therefore never doubts. We would rather hear of a doubting Thomas who, in spite of his sinful unbelief, was a true believer in the Lord Jesus than of one who is rich and increased with goods and does not know the beggar’s place. However, let us be careful not to fall into the error of the Remonstrants. They introduced “the doubts of the papist again into the church” (Rejection of errors, article 5) which takes away the sure comfort of the true believers. Rome teaches that the saints can never be sure of their salvation and can fall away from the state of grace. Thus there is no certainty of faith to salvation, and believers remain subject to continuing doubts.

True believers for themselves may and do obtain assurance according to the measure of their faith.

Also the Remonstrants taught that believers can never be sure of their final salvation. In their view this depends upon their faith and repentance and their right as of their free will. They denied the total depravity of man and made God dependent upon the efforts and the willingness of those who have received grace.

God’s decrees, according to the Remonstrants, are conditional. The Lord is actually One who just waits and sees what man does. What a comfortless doctrine! God’s Word teaches us something different. The apostle speaks of it in Romans 8:30, “Moreover whom He did predestinate, them He also called: and whom He called, them He also justified: and whom He justified, them He also glorified.”

Assurance of perseverance

The Lord is faithful to His own Word. He will not break His covenant oath and promises. Not one of those who is given unto Christ by the Father, and whom He bought with His precious blood, will perish. Yes, their way may be difficult, their burdens heavy, their enemies mighty, their faith sometimes weak, but it is not so that they are preserved because of their perseverance and their faith. No, the opposite is true. They will persevere because God preserves them. He will finish perfectly what He for them has undertaken.

“True believers, for themselves may and do obtain assurance according to the measure of their faith.” Although we must be afraid of a happy Christendom that does not know of any strife, we must also reject an erroneous opinion as if doubt in the life of God’s children is commendable. It is not scriptural to suspect any measure of assurance in the life of God’s true children as being presumption. Paul could say, “I know whom I have believed.” Faith in exercise always gives some certainty. The fire of faith maybe accompanied by the smoke of doubt, but sometimes the fire may burn brightly. Then all doubts and fears are gone. Then they may know that the Lord will not forsake the work that He for them and in them has begun.

We read in Psalm 30:6&7a, “And in my prosperity I said, I shall never be moved. LORD, by Thy favor Thou hast made my mountain to stand strong....” Then there was no question in the heart of the poet concerning His salvation.

However, there are other times when it seems as if all that they believed to be God’s work seems to come to nothing. We read of this further in the Psalm as the poet continues in verse 7b, “Thou didst hide Thy face, and I was troubled.” No wonder that in all his fears and troubles he fled to the Lord and made supplication unto Him.

You might ask, how is it possible that a true child of God can be sure of salvation at some times but at other times may be filled with doubts and questions? The answer is that we must make a distinction between faith, as a planting of the Lord in the heart, and the activities of faith. Faith is a gift of God, and this gift itself is perfect as all God’s works are. This faith is not only a certain knowledge, “but also an assured confidence, which the Holy Ghost works by the gospel in my heart” (Lord’s Day 7 HC).

According to the measure of faith

Although the gift is complete, the activities of it are not. Compare it with a hand that the Lord gives. All parts of the hand are there, and nothing is missing. However, this does not mean that this hand will and can always be used. There can be such weakness that a person cannot use his hand. Furthermore, the hand of a child cannot hold or carry what the hand of an adult can. It is evident that there are steps in the life of grace.

There are babes, children, and young men, but also men and fathers in grace. There are those who are concerned but also those who are established in their state. However, those who during their life could speak with liberty and from an assurance of what the Lord had done to their soul have sometimes experienced heavy strife and assaults of the enemy on their deathbed before they entered into the promised land.

It is a great privilege if one may know that the anchor of his hope lies firmly in the righteousness of Christ and in the work of a Triune God and if there may be the knowledge of what the Lord has freely given. However, this does not mean there can be no stumbling, falling, and a passing through darkness and heavy strife. God will take care that no big Christians, but only poor sinners, humbly trusting in His faithfulness and power, will arrive at the shore.

Safe arrival

One thing is sure—the entire church “must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.” What that will be when the ship, which left the harbor with full sails, arrives in its desired haven with torn sails and without its beauty so that it will be a wonder that it has reached its destination. Of this our fathers speak with certainty, “and will inherit eternal life.”

The measure of faith may vary; there may be weak or strong faith, but all who by grace have learned to look away from all what is of self and look to the Captain, “the Author and Finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God,” will arrive where He is. Christ prays for them, John 17:24, “Father, I will that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am; that they behold My glory.” In this High Priestly prayer which rests upon His finished work is the certainty of the coming home of all God’s children.

Young and old, where will you spend eternity? Where will your eternal home be? Oh, seek the Lord while He still calls you and says, “This is the way, walk ye in it.” Ask for this heart-renewing grace and for that hand of faith. Blessed are those that trust in Him.

Rev. C. Vogelaar
Kalamazoo, MI

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Canons of Dordt (54)

Bekijk de hele uitgave van zondag 1 april 2007

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PDF Bekijken