29 May, 2016

Canons of Dordt, III/IV: 9—“… and confers on them various gifts …”

It is not the fault of the gospel nor of Christ, offered therein, nor of God, who calls men by the gospel, and confers on them various gifts, that those who are called by the ministry of the Word refuse to come and be converted. The fault lies in themselves, some of whom when called, regardless of their danger, reject the word of life; others though they receive it, suffer it not to make a lasting impression on their heart; therefore, their joy arising only from a temporary faith, soon vanishes, and they fall away; while others choke the seed of the word by perplexing cares and the pleasures of this world, and produce no fruit. This our Saviour teaches in the parable of the sower, Matthew 13 (Canons of Dordt, III/IV, 9).


Rev. Steven R. Key

[Originally published in the Protestant Reformed Theological Journal, vol. 37, number 2 (April 2004), pp. 45-64]

The second matter that deserves our attention is the reference to the “various gifts” God confers upon those who are called by the gospel but who refuse to come and be converted. The fathers apparently had in mind such passages as Romans 9:4-5 and the opening verses of Hebrews 6. Those gifts referred to, therefore, are not gifts of grace. But, as those passages make clear, they are the spiritual gifts given to the church, which are tasted only naturally by those who eventually fall away. In some cases, men come into very close contact with the truth and the gifts that belong to the kingdom of God. They see its beauty and goodness, and all that is associated with life in God’s kingdom. But they taste and see only with their natural senses, not having received the grace to receive them spiritually. In fact, God does not bestow those outward gifts upon them out of grace, but most assuredly to bring to manifestation their own wickedness and hardness of heart, and this according to His own sovereign decree (Canons I, 5-6).



Prof. David J. Engelsma

Canons III/IV. 9 speaks only of “gifts,” not grace. And the issue between the PRC and their doctrinal foes concerns grace. Does God favor those who hear the gospel with grace? Does God with the gifts of providence bestow grace upon the ungodly? Not “gifts,” but grace! No one denies that God gives gifts to the ungodly. Providential gifts includes rain and sunshine—but without grace, so that the gifts increase the guilt of the ungodly, who are not thankful and use the gifts to sin. Gifts that accompany the external call of the gospel and the intellectual knowledge of the Christian religion are some knowledge of God, of natural things, differences between good and evil, some regard to virtue, and maintaining an orderly external deportment (see Canons III/IV. 4). The culture of a “Christian nation” is better than that of a non-Christian nation. Scholars have argued convincingly that Calvinistic nations are more developed and culturally superior than and to non-Calvinistic nations. But cultural gifts are not grace. Superior cultures increase guilt, if the citizens are not thankful, but press their cultural advantages into gross sin, as we see happening today in N. America and Europe. Grace is the power to fear God and keep His commandments. Gifts without grace tend to advance iniquity and hell. Grace leads to holiness and heaven.



More to come! (DV)

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