27 January, 2017

Chapter 2

Only for the Elect

The augmentation of a certain confession of faith does not necessarily imply that it has been corrupted. It is self-evident that during the true, spiritual development of a church, the need may be felt and begin to assert itself for enlargement of the confessions. Such development and expansion of the confessions may take place in harmony with the fundamental principles of the original confessions and may even be an improvement and purification of them. This can also be applied to the Reformed standards. Although the three declarations that the Christian Reformed Church adopted and alleged to be interpretations of the confessions are not embodied in the original standards, these declarations might be in harmony and agreement with the fundamental principles of the Reformed faith as expressed in the Three Forms of Unity.

If this possibility would prove to be a fact, I would still have serious objections against the procedure the Christian Reformed Church followed in adopting the three points. They certainly should have been submitted to the judgment of the churches before they were finally adopted as being of the same value and force as the Reformed standards. But my chief objection—that these appendages are corruptions of the confessions—would be removed.

This chapter purposes to investigate whether this possibility is true with respect to the first point. I have shown that the first point is an augmentation of and an addition to the standards. The question before us is whether this first appendage is in harmony with the principles of the standards or whether it is a deviation from the line of the Reformed faith.

The appendage adopted in the first point is that God in the preaching of the gospel is gracious to all who hear. More briefly, the preaching of the gospel is common grace.

In order to be entirely fair, it is proper and expedient first to consider, what does the Christian Reformed Church accept as the meaning of the first appendage? I must warn the reader that he will be greatly disappointed if he expects a concise and definite answer to this question from the leaders of the Christian Reformed Church. Their answers are ambiguous and evasive.

This would not be the case if the first point had been adopted by avowedly Arminian churches. Then it would be comparatively easy to obtain an answer to the question. But the first point originated in a professedly Reformed denomination, and the leaders of that denomination most emphatically deny that the doctrine of Arminius is at all embodied in the first point. They emphasize that the Christian Reformed Church firmly believes in the doctrines of predestination, sovereign election and reprobation, particular atonement in Christ, and irresistible and efficacious grace in the application of all the blessings of salvation to the elect only. They plead “not guilty” to the indictment of Arminianism. They even claim not to understand how the Protestant Reformed Churches can honestly accuse them of this heresy insofar as the church maintains the doctrine expressed in the first point. Writes Louis Berkhof:

The controversy that was carried on had the very usual effect that the very air became impregnated with various false conceptions. Some busy themselves to spread the tale that the three points are three bullets from Arminian canons that shot a terrible breach in our fortifications. The question whether they do so in good faith, we will not discuss. But the fact is that many good people believe that presentation, while others, confused thereby ask the question, what is truth?13

Our church stands as firm as ever in the conviction that Christ died with the intention to save only the elect, although she recognizes the infinite value of the sacrifice of Christ as being sufficient for the sins of the whole world. He who alleges that synod seeks covertly to introduce the Arminian doctrine of universal atonement becomes guilty of false representation.14

It is even emphasized that synod plainly declared in the first point that the saving grace of God is shown only to the elect unto eternal life. Is all this not thoroughly Reformed and free from the taint of Arminianism?

I answer affirmatively. What Berkhof writes in the above citation is undoubtedly Reformed. The same is true of the first point insofar as it declares that the saving grace of God is bestowed only on the elect.

But let us not be deceived by these declarations of soundness in the truth. The first point reminds one of the two-faced head of Janus, a Roman idol distinguished by the remarkable feature of having two faces and looking in two opposite directions. There is a marked similarity between Janus and the first point. The latter is also two-faced and casts wistful looks in opposite directions. The same may be asserted of the attempts to explain the first point by the leaders of the Christian Reformed Church.

The difference is that while the two faces of heathen Janus bore a perfect resemblance to each other, the Janus of 1924 shows two totally different faces. One of his faces reminds you of Augustine, Calvin, and Gomarus, but the other shows the unmistakable features of Pelagius, Arminius and Episcopius. Your troubles begin when you inquire of this two-faced oracle what may be the exact meaning of the first point. Then this modern Janus begins to revolve, alternately showing you one face and then the other, until you hardly know whether you are dealing with Calvin or Arminius.

The quotations cited above from Berkhof’s booklet on the three points show you only the Reformed face of this Janus. If you inquire of him when he turns this face toward you, he says, “The saving grace of God is only for the elect unto eternal life and is bestowed on them alone.”

But compare the following from Berkhof’s booklet: “The general and well-meaning offer of salvation is an evidence of God’s favor toward sinners, is the Lord’s blessing on them.” Lest we should misunderstand the professor and imagine that he refers to only elect sinners, he adds in the same paragraph, “Scripture teaches without doubt that we must consider the offer of salvation a temporal blessing also for those who not heed the invitation,” that is, for those who are designated by the word of God as reprobate ungodly.15

To prove this assertion the professor continues, “That God calls the ungodly to repentance is presented in the holy Scriptures as a proof of his pleasure in their salvation.”16 This may pass as long as you demand no further definition of “the ungodly.” No one denies that God has pleasure in the salvation of ungodly men. But when you generalize this and say that God has pleasure in the salvation of all the ungodly, that he is willing to save all sinners, you depart from the Reformed line of faith and thinking. I am confident that no Reformed man will deny the truth of this statement. Yet Berkhof departs exactly in this way from the Reformed truths.

In the prophecy of Ezekiel we may listen to the voice of the Lord in words that testify to his mercy: “Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord GOD; and not that he should return from his ways and live?” And again: “For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth [of one who perishes in his sins], saith the Lord GOD; wherefore turn yourselves and live ye.” These passages tell us as clearly as words can that God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked. Note that he does not say “of elect sinners,” but “of sinners” entirely in general. The tender calling we hear therein witnesses of his great love for sinners and of his pleasure in the salvation of the ungodly.17

The professor declares in another part of his booklet that it must be evident to anyone who can read Dutch (the professor wrote his booklet in that language) that the first point is not tainted with Arminianism. I add that it must also be very clear to anyone who can read Dutch that in the above quotation Berkhof teaches that God’s love for sinners is for all the ungodly, that God is ready to bestow the grace of Christ upon all sinners. He even emphasizes this when he adds that the Lord in the prophecy of Ezekiel speaks not of elect sinners, but of sinners “entirely in general.” According to the professor’s presentation, this general love of God and desire to save sinners is declared in the gospel.

If any other meaning can possibly be elicited from Berkhof’s words, I will be glad to receive instruction. His entire argument purposes to show that the grace of God, the love of God for sinners, and the pleasure he evinces to save them do not apply to the elect only, but to all men. If this is not the meaning of his words in the quotations cited, I cannot see that they have any sense at all. However indignant the professor may appear when I accuse him of Arminianism, he certainly proves by his words that the indictment is well founded.

Other passages in the same booklet are entirely in harmony with his defense of a general love of God for sinners and his pleasure to save them all. Commenting on Romans 2:4, he writes,

The explanation of this [the riches of God’s goodness [must be found in the purpose God had in view with this revelation of his love. And what was this purpose? Was it to cast the ungodly Jews more deeply into perdition? No, but to lead them to repentance … But in the case of the Jews the result does not correspond to the intention. They hardened themselves against the revelation of God’s goodness.18

If this is not Arminianism and Pelagianism, I cannot read Dutch; neither do I understand in opposition to what false doctrine our fathers at Dordrecht formulated the Canons. In the last quoted passage the professor teaches that God will lead men to repentance, that men do not want it and harden themselves, and that in this case God’s purpose fails; the result does not correspond to God’s intention. If this is not a defense of the error of resistible grace, language must be extremely elusive and deceptive. But this presentation of the matter is wholly in harmony with the professor’s view regarding the general love of God toward the ungodly.

The same view the professor expresses again in his interpretation of Genesis 6:3 in connection with the second point: “The Holy Spirit resisted the ungodliness and perversity of those generations that lived before the flood. He sought to check their ungodliness and lead them to repentance … But the Spirit strove in vain; sin increased rapidly.”19

I am confident that if before 1924 I would have voiced such opinions from a Christian Reformed pulpit under the auspices of a good Reformed consistory, the latter surely would have refused to shake hands with me as a sign of their disapproval.

We may therefore consider it established that the first point teaches that in the preaching of the gospel God evinces his general love to all the ungodly, his pleasure in their lives, and his willingness to save them all. Besides, according to Berkhof, the same point also teaches that in the preaching there is a temporal blessing for all men, also for those who are not saved. He points to the examples of Ahab, who repented and whose punishment was postponed as a result of Elijah’s preaching, and of Nineveh, which repented as a result of Jonah’s preaching and was temporarily saved from destruction.

This is a minor point and I can dismiss it with a few remarks.

This presentation of the influence of the gospel on the reprobate ungodly is certainly not in harmony with the Reformed confessions. The Heidelberg Catechism teaches that by nature we daily increase our debt, that God is terribly displeased with our original and actual sins, and that he will punish them in his just judgment temporally and eternally. Nor is this presentation in harmony with the teaching of the word of God. Temporal blessings under the preaching of the gospel for the ungodly reprobate? May I remind the professor of the terrible curse threatened on the people of Israel if they refused to walk in the way of Jehovah? Will he read Deuteronomy 28? Were not those curses literally carried out on the ungodly nation? The professor may remark that those curses had a typical significance and were threatened on the people of Israel under the law. I admit it. But are not the professor’s examples taken from the Old Testament?

True, final judgment was postponed in Ahab’s case. But note, first, that the postponement was not under the preaching of the gospel but under the announcement of most terrible judgment. Second, it was not a postponement of judgment for one who utterly refused to listen to the word of God but for Ahab insofar as he still trembled because of God’s terrible wrath. Third, Ahab was not blessed by everything that took place in his case. Ahab’s house was not destroyed in his time, but the final execution of judgment was transferred to the next generation. Thus postponement was entirely in harmony with God’s righteousness. Final judgment cannot come until the sinner has shown himself to be utterly hard. Ahab still feared and trembled under the announcement of God’s judgment. He seemed to be repentant. Hence that God might appear perfectly just and righteous when he judges the final judgment was postponed until the next generation. Fourth, Ahab did not personally escape punishment at all, for he died, and the dogs licked his blood.

All such examples clearly show how desperately the fathers of the three points need some real scriptural proof for their contentions.

Certainly nothing in the word of God contradicts the view that the men of Nineveh were really converted. Not all were converted, but only the elect whom God had in the city at that time for his prophetic purpose. Everything is in favor of such an interpretation. This is evident from Jonah 3:5–9, which describes the conversion of the Ninevites. It is also clear from the Lord’s repeated reference to the sign of Jonah the prophet, a sign of Jesus’ death and burial and his leaving the nation of Israel to turn to the world with the gospel of salvation. Nineveh is an old-dispensational type of the world from which Christ calls his elect and gathers his “other sheep … which are not of this fold” [John 10:16]. The Savior, in words that leave no doubt as to their meaning, asserts that the men of Nineveh repented through the preaching of Jonah, while the men of his own generation refused to repent through the preaching of one much greater than Jonah. Sound interpretation certainly requires us to understand the word repentance each time in the same sense. I maintain that God for his sovereign purpose, chiefly of creating the prophetic sign of Jonah the prophet, had some of his elect in the city of Nineveh at the time of Jonah. They repented through his preaching, and for a time the city was spared for their sakes. Shortly afterward the city was destroyed.

These brief remarks suffice to dismiss the minor question of temporal blessings as a result of the preaching of the gospel. Of much greater importance is Berkhof’s assertion, as an explanation of the first point, that through the preaching of the gospel God earnestly seeks the salvation of all men and thus shows grace to all of them. This is the heart of the question. Is such teaching in harmony with Scripture and the confessions of the Reformed churches?

We consider this question from two aspects. First, is it in conformity with Scripture and the confessions to teach that there is in God the gracious purpose to save all who hear the gospel? Second, do Scripture and the confessions teach that such a graciously seeking operation of God proceeds from him through the preaching of the gospel on all who hear?

It ought to be superfluous to prove to any Reformed believer that Scripture and the confessions teach exactly the opposite; namely, God’s gracious purpose to save the elect only; his righteous and sovereign purpose to leave others in their misery unto damnation; and those who offer a different presentation seek to instil into people the destructive poison of the Pelagian errors.

To substantiate these statements, I refer the reader to the Canons of Dordt, which plainly teach that God has pleasure in the salvation of the elect only; that he purposes to save them and them only; and that he accomplishes salvation objectively and subjectively for them and in them alone. If the first point of 1924 teaches that God earnestly seeks the salvation of all men and that he reveals general grace in the preaching of the gospel to all who hear, it is in direct conflict with the following article in the Canons:

This was the sovereign counsel and most gracious will and purpose of God the Father, that the quickening and saving efficacy of the most precious death of his Son should extend to all the elect, for bestowing upon them alone the gift of justifying faith, thereby to bring them infallibly to salvation: that is, it was the will of God, that Christ by the blood of the cross, whereby he confirmed the new covenant, should effectually redeem out of every people, tribe nation, and language, all those, and those only, who were from eternity chosen to salvation, and given to him by the Father; that he should confer upon them faith, which, together with all the other saving fits of the Holy Spirit, he purchased for them by his death; should purge them from all sin, both original and actual, whether committed before or after believing; and having faithfully preserved them even to the end, should at last bring them free from every spot and blemish to the enjoyment of glory in his own presence forever.20

The well-informed reader will notice that in the following description of reprobation the infralapsarian view is maintained. Yet the article clearly teaches that in God there is the righteous and sovereign purpose, for the manifestation of his justice, to leave some in their misery, not to save them, but to condemn them forever and to punish them for their sins.

What peculiarly tends to illustrate and recommend to us the eternal and unmerited grace of election is the express testimony of sacred Scripture, that not all, but some only, are elected, while others are passed by in the eternal decree; whom God out of his sovereign, most just, irreprehensible and unchangeable good pleasure, hath decreed to leave in the common misery into which they have wilfully plunged themselves, and not to bestow upon them saving faith and the grace of conversion; but permitting them in his just judgment to follow their own way; at last, for the declaration of his justice, to condemn and punish them forever, not only on account of their unbelief, but also for all their other sins. And this is the decree of reprobation which by no means makes God the author of sin (the very thought of which is blasphemy), but declares him to be an awful, irreprehensible and righteous judge and avenger.21

This directly condemns the first point as explained by Berkhof, which he interprets as teaching that in God there is a gracious purpose to save all who hear the preaching of the gospel, not only the elect, and that this gracious purpose is plainly declared in the gospel.

Synod rejects the errors of those … Who use the difference between meriting and appropriating, to the end that they may instil into the minds of the imprudent and inexperienced this teaching, that God, as far as he is concerned, has been minded of applying to all equally the benefits gained by the death of Christ; but that, while some obtain the pardon of sin and eternal life and others do not, this difference depends on their own free will, which joins itself to the grace that is offered without exception, and that it is not dependent on the special gift of mercy, which powerfully works in them, that they rather than others should appropriate unto themselves this grace.

Rejection: For these, while they feign that they present this distinction in a sound sense, seek to instil into the people the destructive poison of the Pelagian errors.22

Let the reader judge how far Berkhof must plead guilty to the indictment that he instils into the minds of the imprudent and inexperienced this destructive poison of the Pelagian errors under the pretext of making a certain distinction in a sound sense. I freely admit that he does not teach in so many words that the difference between meriting and appropriating must be explained from the free will of man; but I maintain that materially he teaches exactly this when he writes that God’s purpose was to save the ungodly Jews, but in their case the result did not correspond to the purpose of God; and when he asserts that the Holy Spirit’s purpose was to lead men to conversion, but the Spirit’s attempts were frustrated.

It ought to be plain from the citations from the Canons that the first point, as explained by Berkhof, stands condemned. According to the Canons we may not present salvation in a way that leaves the impression that God graciously purposes the salvation of all who hear. Yet this is exactly the teaching of the first point according to Berkhof’s interpretation. Therefore, the Canons unambiguously condemn Berkhof’s teaching as Pelagian, and they certainly are not in sympathy with the view that God reveals in the preaching of the gospel his gracious purpose to save all the hearers.

Scripture is no less explicit in its condemnation of this teaching. In proof I could quote the word of God almost at random, but I will limit the quotations to a few passages that plainly deny that according to God’s intention the preaching of the gospel is grace to all who hear.

And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed. Then said I, Lord, how long? And he answered, Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate, and the LORD have removed men far away, and there be a great forsaking in the midst of the land. But yet in it shall be a tenth, and it shall return, and shall be eaten: as a teil tree, and as an oak, whose substance is in them, when they cast their leaves: so the holy seed shall be the substance thereof. (Isa. 6:9–13)

Berkhof considers it a terrible doctrine that the gospel is proclaimed as a judgment and curse to the ungodly reprobate. The first point teaches that the preaching of the gospel is always grace according to God’s intention. But this passage from Isaiah’s prophecy emphasizes that the gospel is preached unto a curse and a hardening of the heart of the reprobate according to God’s definitely expressed purpose. Isaiah was called to preach the word of God to the men of his generations so that their eyes would be blinded, their ears would be made heavy, their hearts would become fat, and they would not turn and be healed. In order to save the wheat the chaff must become fully ripe unto rejection through the preaching of the prophet. The captivity of the people and the destruction of the land and the city are the end of Isaiah’s preaching, so that he might proclaim salvation and restoration and glory to the remnant according to the election of grace.

Thus also the Savior instructs his disciples in Mark 4:11–12:

And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: that seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them.

No one will deny that the parables belong to the preaching of the gospel. Was it the gracious purpose of God by means of the parables to save all? In the parables did he earnestly avow a purpose to bring all men to repentance? The contrary is true. The Lord plainly teaches that all these things are done in parables for a judgment and condemnation to those who are without.

These very explicit declarations of the word of God are not contradicted by the following texts to which synod appealed to support the teaching of the first point:

Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord GOD: and not that he should return from his ways and live? (Ezek. 18:23)

Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel? (Ezek. 33:11)

In these verses God speaks and swears by himself, and his word is absolutely true and unchangeable. The content of God’s oath is that he has no pleasure in the death of the wicked and that he has pleasure in the conversion and life of the ungodly. It is unnecessary to add anything more. Although it might be answered from the context, the question whether the verses refer to elect or reprobate can be left out of the discussion. God has pleasure in conversion and life. No one denies this. He has no pleasure in impenitence and death and is terribly displeased with the impenitent state of the wicked. No one objects to this. In the same sense that God has no pleasure in the impenitence of the wicked, he has no pleasure in his death. Conversion and life are inseparably connected.

These passages do not speak of the preaching of the gospel at all. They surely contain no offer of salvation nor declare the purpose of God in the preaching of the gospel with respect to elect and reprobate. That it is God’s purpose through the preaching of the gospel to bestow the grace of conversion on all who hear is certainly not implied in the passages. If synod imagines that a general offer of grace is in these passages, it is most certainly mistaken, for there is no offer whatever.

The first question, whether God through the preaching of the gospel reveals a gracious purpose to save all who hear, can be considered settled. The first declaration of the synod of 1924 is in conflict with Scripture and the confessions. The first appendage is not in harmony with the fundamental principles of the Reformed standards.

Do Scripture and the confessions teach that through the preaching of the gospel a gracious operation of God proceeds on all who hear the word?

It has always been considered Reformed to maintain that the means of grace have no power in and of themselves. They are means of grace only through an operation of the Holy Spirit on the hearts of those who receive them. This is true of the word of sacraments. Without the gracious operation of the Spirit, the word is not efficacious unto salvation. No grace and no blessing can proceed from that word as such. In light of this truth we see that the question above is closely related to the first point, which declares that God in the general preaching of the gospel, or offer of salvation, is gracious to all who hear.

If the operation of the preaching on the hearts of the hearers depends on the gracious operation of the Spirit of Christ, according to Scripture and the confessions is there such an operation of grace concomitant with the preaching of the gospel on the hearts of all the hearers? If the confessions deny this and the Scriptures declare the very opposite, is it not evident that the first point must be considered a product of the vain imaginations of men?

The Canons teach as follows:

When God accomplishes his good pleasure in the elect, or works in them true conversion, he not only causes the gospel to be externally preached to them, and powerfully illuminates their minds by his Holy Spirit, that they may rightly understand and discern the things of the Spirit of God, but by the efficacy of the same regenerating Spirit he pervades the inmost recesses of the man; he opens the closed and softens the hardened heart, and circumcises that which was uncircumcised; infuses new qualities into the will, which, though heretofore dead, he quickens; from being evil, disobedient, and refractory, he renders it good, obedient, and pliable; actuates and strengthens it, that, like a good tree, it may bring forth the fruits of good actions.23

The point of this article is that when it is God’s good pleasure to bestow grace on sinners and show them loving-kindness, God not only causes the gospel to be preached externally to them, but he also actually accomplishes the grace he wants to bestow in the hearts of men and thus efficaciously brings them to salvation under the preaching of the gospel. He accomplishes this only in the elect.

This is emphasized when the Canons reject the errors of those

… who teach that the corrupt and natural man can so well use the common grace (by which they [the Remonstrants] understand the light of nature), of the gifts still left in them after the fall, that he can gradually gain by their good use a greater, namely, the evangelical or saving grace and salvation itself. And that in this way God on his part shows himself ready to reveal Christ unto all men, since he applies to all sufficiently and efficiently the means necessary to conversion.

Rejection: For the experience of all ages and the Scripture do both testify that this is untrue. He showeth his word unto Jacob, his statues and ordinances unto Israel. He hath not dealt so with any nation: and as for his ordinances, they have not known them (Ps. 145:19–20). Who in the generations gone by suffered all the nations to walk in their own ways (Acts 14:16). And: And they (Paul and his companions) having been forbidden of the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia, and when they were come over against Mysia, they assayed to go into Bythinia, and the Spirit suffered them not (Acts 16:6–7).24

The heart of this article is that the Lord is not ready to reveal Christ to all. Without such a revealing, gracious operation of God the natural man cannot attain to salvation, for he is by nature darkness. Although he comes into contact with the preaching of the gospel, he cannot receive the grace of God by his natural light and gifts. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness comprehends it not. Such a revealing operation of God does not proceed with the gospel on all who hear, but only on the elect unto eternal life. On this operation, however, everything depends. How then can the first point maintain that the preaching of the gospel is grace to all the hearers and that God purposes to bestow grace on everyone who comes into contact with the gospel? From whatever point of view one considers the first declaration of synod, it clearly conflicts with the standards of the Reformed churches. It can never become an integral part of them.

The word of God is much more emphatic and explicit on this point. It speaks not only of a saving, illuminating, revealing, converting, and quickening operation of God through the preaching of the gospel on the hearts of men, but also emphatically of a hiding and hardening operation of God’s righteous wrath under and through the preaching of the same gospel. This can be proven by many texts.

The Savior thanks the Father that according to his good pleasure, he has hidden these things from the wise and the prudent and revealed them to babes. The context shows very clearly that Jesus refers to the actual fruit of his preaching and labors until that moment, particularly in the cities of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum. He had preached the gospel of the kingdom to them. The result was that the wise and prudent had rejected it and the babes had received it with joy. How does the Lord explain that twofold result of his preaching? Does he say that God had been gracious to all through his preaching, but that the wise had rejected it? On the contrary, the Savior ascends to the heights of God’s good pleasure and explains that God accomplished his pleasure in those who believed. But God hid those things from the wise and the prudent, although the gospel had been preached to them as well as to the others (Matt. 11:25–26).

John 12:39-49 teaches explicitly that the wicked Jews could not believe because God had blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, so that they should not be converted and healed. Romans 9:18 emphatically asserts that God is merciful to whom he wills and hardens whom he wills. Does not the word of God plainly teach that under the ministry of the word God also gives a spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear (Rom. 11:7–10)? The apostle glories that the ministers of the gospel are at all times a sweet savor of Christ unto God, both in those who are saved and in those that perish, whether they be a savor of life unto life or a savor of death unto death (II Cor. 2:14–16).

I need not quote more texts; Scripture is full of similar testimonies. The above proof more than sufficiently show that the first point is an error and that it is surely an evident untruth that the first point is a mere interpretation of the confessions. It is neither explicitly taught in the standards of the Reformed churches nor implied therein. Nor can the content of the first point be fitted into the whole of the confessions and become an integral part of them. On the contrary, the first point denies the truth that always has been maintained by the Reformed churches and is embodied in their standards: the grace of God in and through the preaching of the gospel is for the elect and for them alone.

In conclusion let us recall the scriptural and Reformed line of the truth. Before the foundation of the world, God in sovereign mercy chose his people unto eternal glory. In their stead and on their behalf he sent his only begotten Son to suffer and die for them vicariously and to reconcile them with God. These elect become partakers of the blessings of salvation merited by Christ only through efficacious grace. These elect he blesses and keeps by the power of his grace so they persevere to the end and no one may take their crown.

God also rejected others to become vessels of wrath fitted to destruction. Some of these he also brings under the preaching of the gospel and even within the pale of the historical development of his covenant, not to be gracious to them, but that in and through them sin may become manifest in all its horror and God may be just when he judges. They will be beaten with double stripes, and it would have been better for them had they never known the way of peace and righteousness (II. Pet. 2:20–21).

The first point of 1924 is an appendage to the confessions and stands in glaring contradiction to the fundamental principles of the Reformed faith. It is well adapted to instil into the minds of the imprudent and inexperienced the destructive poison of the Pelagian errors. Although the leaders of the churches bear the greater sin, all the members of the Christian Reformed Church are responsible for the three points and are duty-bound to reject them as repugnant to sound doctrine.


13. Berkhof, Three Points, 3.

14. Ibid., 8.

15. Ibid., 21.

16. Ibid.

17. Ibid.

18. Ibid., 27–28.

19. Ibid., 42–43.

20. Canons of Dordt II:8, in Schaff, Creeds of Christendom, 3:587.Ed.

21. Canons of Dordt I:15, in ibid., 3:584.—Ed.

22. Canons of Dordt II, error and rejection 6, in Confessions and Church Order, 166.—Ed.

23. Canons of Dordt III/IV:11, in Schaff, Creeds of Christendom, 3:590.Ed.

24. Canons of Dordt III/IV, error and rejection 5, in Confessions and Church Order, 171–72.—Ed.

ibid., 3:588.—Ed.

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