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Canons of Dordt (55)
The Lord is faithful to His promises. Not one of those who is given unto Christ by the Father and whom He bought with His precious blood will perish. The pilgrims will arrive safely in the desired haven. They will be preserved by the faithful, covenant-keeping God and, according to the measure of their faith, they do obtain assurance of this. The question is: how does one obtain this assurance? This is explained in the Fifth Head, Article 10.
“This assurance, however, is not produced by any peculiar revelation contrary to, or independent of the Word of God; but springs from faith in God’s promises, which He has most abundantly revealed in His Word for our comfort; from the testimony of the Holy Spirit, witnessing with our spirit, that we are children and heirs of God, Romans 8:16; and lastly, from a serious and holy desire to preserve a good conscience and to perform good works. And if the elect of God were deprived of this solid comfort, that they shall finally obtain the victory, and of this infallible pledge or earnest of eternal glory, they would be of all men the most miserable.”
It is true that God’s chosen ones can be assured of their preservation to salvation; however, it is very necessary that we are instructed from where this assurance comes.
Only God’s Word
There are many unscriptural ideas concerning assurance which also existed in the days of our fathers. Already in the time of the Reformation there were the Anabaptists who believed in a kind of inner light by which the Lord revealed precious truths to people. The Anabaptists did not have much appreciation for the Word of God. In fact, they called it but a dead letter and based this on what we read in 2 Corinthians 3:6, “Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.”
Their appeal to this text is wrong because it does not speak of a dead letter but “the letter killeth.” Furthermore the letter does not mean the written Word of God but the law of God which was written in tables of stone. Paul means that the law never can give life although it shows the way in which the Lord wants us to walk. We read in Galatians 3:10, “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is everyone that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.”
When the Bible says, “...but the spirit giveth life,” it means that the gospel shows the way of life and salvation by faith in Jesus Christ. It is by the power of the Holy Spirit that faith is given and preserved in God’s chosen ones; they are quickened from their state of death in trespasses and sins and receive spiritual life to serve Him. No, God’s Word is not a dead letter but, by the Spirit’s work, a power of God unto salvation. We read in Isaiah 54:13, “And all thy children shall be taught of the LORD.”
The Lord makes scriptural Christians who want to be instructed by what God speaks to them in His precious Word.
This teaching takes place externally by the Word and internally by the Spirit who brings the Word into the heart. It is so dangerous to draw conclusions or even base the hope of one’s salvation upon anything outside the Word of God. It is treacherous ground if we build on visions, dreams, or special revelations outside of God’s testimony. The Lord makes scriptural Christians who want to be instructed by what God’s speaks to them in His precious Word, for that only is trustworthy.
Faith in God’s promises
It is pride of the human heart which causes some to tell very special stories of dreams or revelations and thus give the impression that they are very special people, deeply led into the mysteries of salvation. On the contrary, grace humbles, makes us aware of our ignorance and foolishness, and always leads to a low place at the feet of the Master Teacher in order to be taught by Him. Also in our days He speaks through His Word and strengthens faith by His promises, “Which He has most abundantly revealed in His Word for our comfort.”
It is the Holy Spirit who, in the regeneration of sinners, plants faith in their heart by which they are united with Christ. The Holy Spirit not only powerfully convicts the sinner of his lost condition but also of the truth of the gospel. The apostle speaks of this in 1 Timothy 1:15, “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation.”
It is God’s way to lead His children by His promises to the riches which are in the storehouses of the greater Joseph, the Lord Jesus Christ. How precious and rich are those manifold promises in God’s infallible Word. It may seem that the Lord has forsaken and forgotten them, but when the Holy Spirit opens the Word to them and sheds light upon it, there is a rich comfort. As He says in Isaiah 49:15-16, “Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of My hands; thy walls are continually before Me.”
There are so many other precious promises. Paul says in Philippians 1:6, “Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. “How comforting is the Word of the prophet in Jeremiah 31:3, “The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee.”
No, this is not a dead letter but the living Word of God. This does not mean that God’s children are able to take what they like from Scripture and thus drive away their doubts and fears, for without the testimony of the Holy Spirit, they will not find the comfort which they need.
The testimony of the Holy Spirit
The Lord always makes room for His own gifts, for the benefits of Christ. He does so by emptying the sinner, stripping him of all his own righteousness and so-called goodness by making him who he really is before God—a wretched and lost sinner. It is the Spirit’s work to glorify Christ in the heart of rebels and enemies. He inclines their heart and makes them willing; He also takes away all their own saviors. He drives them out to the only One who can help them. The Spirit leads the sinner as a poor, wearied, heavy-laden one to Christ. No, He does not show man only his misery and poverty although there are no words to describe what man has become in his deep fall in Adam, nor what he remains in himself after grace received. The Spirit opens the Word, brings the gospel with power into the heart, and gives faith to embrace the promises. The Holy Spirit enlightens the soul and persuades such a one of the truthfulness of God’s promises. He gives a personal application of these promises to the heart so that a chosen one may flee to them and may trust in them.
That is what believing is. It is resting with its full weight, which is the weight of a heavy-laden, burdened sinner, upon what the Lord has spoken. The Lord cannot lie and will finish perfectly what He for His Church has undertaken. How dependent we are on the witness of the Spirit; without this our arms are too short and our hands cannot take hold of the most precious invitations. As impossible as it is to believe by our own efforts alone, it is as impossible not to believe when the Holy Spirit speaks to us with power through God’s Word and promises.
A good conscience
It is a great blessing if the Spirit witnesses with our spirit that we are children and heirs of God, and we may find rest for our wearied heart in His testimony. However, it pleases the Lord also to give assurance “from a serious and holy desire to preserve a good conscience and to perform good works.”
When God’s children fall into sin and depart from His ways, they will lose the peace in their heart and bring themselves into much darkness concerning their salvation. No, the Lord does not teach His children to boast in grace while they are living in sin. A troubled and accusing conscience disturbs peace and powerfully speaks that there is something seriously wrong in our relationship with God. When we offend and grieve the Spirit, we will not enjoy the rest and peace of a good conscience. A close walk with God will give experiences of His nearness and the joy of His presence.
It is true that the Lord may temporarily withdraw Himself for wise reasons and to further instruct His children, but often this withdrawing is caused by their slothful and careless life. Our close walk does not merit God’s presence, but there is definitely a gracious reward when we lead a praying life, have a tender heart, and walk in the fear of God’s Name. Although many temptations and enemies can assault a child of God, God is the Father of all comfort for His weak, defenseless, and tried children. How sweet His testimony becomes to them. It is not their feelings, dreams, or emotions, but what He speaks to them that gladdens their heart. Blessed are those who are no strangers of this. They long to hear His voice saying to them, “I am thy salvation.”
Although they are weak and helpless without Him, He says in Isaiah 41:14, “Fear not, thou worm Jacob, and ye men of Israel; I will help thee, saith the LORD, and thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.” He hears the cry of the poor and needy and is a mighty Fortress and trustworthy Refuge for them.
— Rev. C. Vogelaar
Ye gates, lift your heads, the glad summons obey,
Ye doors everlasting, wide open the way;
The King of all glory high honors await,
The King of all glory shall enter in state.
— Psalter 58 vs. 1
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Bekijk de hele uitgave van dinsdag 1 mei 2007
The Banner of Truth | 24 Pagina's
Bekijk de hele uitgave van dinsdag 1 mei 2007
The Banner of Truth | 24 Pagina's