27 May, 2019

Canons of Dordt, III/IV: 8—“… that those who are called should come to him …”

As many as are called by the gospel are unfeignedly called. For God hath most earnestly and truly shown in his Word what is pleasing to him, namely, that those who are called should come to him. He, moreover, seriously promises eternal life and rest to as many as shall come to him and believe on him (Canons of Dordt, III/IV, 8).

When this article speaks of the “call” of the gospel (those who are “called” by it), proponents of common grace interpret this as a “gracious offer” or a “gracious invitation” to salvation.


David J. Engelsma

[Source: Protestant Reformed Theological Journal, vol. 47, no. 2 (April 2014), pp. 72–73]

What [the defender of the well-meant offer] must prove is that God on His part, with this serious call desires, or intends, or wills the salvation of all who are summoned, because He is gracious to them, that is, has an attitude of favor towards them. The Canons certainly suggest nothing of this gracious attitude and desire for salvation on the part of God towards all men … [On the contrary,] the Canons as [confess] particular grace, governed by predestination, expressed in a limited atonement, and effectual by the regenerating work of the Spirit within and upon the elect, and the elect only.



Rev. Martyn McGeown

[Source: Grace and Assurance: The Message of the Canons of Dordt (RFPA, 2018), pp. 232-234]

[The] word “called” in article 8 does not mean invited or offered. There is a difference between an invitation or an offer and a call. If you invite someone, it is because you have a desire that he should come. If you offer something, it is because you have a desire that he receive the thing that you are offering. But a call is different because it does not express the desire of the caller, but it expresses the obligation of the called. When God calls, he says, “I command you to come. I insist that you come. You must come. Failure to comply with my command to come will have grave consequences.” No one sends gracious invitations in that manner: “Mr. and Mrs. Smith cordially invite you to the marriage of their daughter, Veronica. Failure to come will result in your arrest and subsequent execution. Please RSVP by May 1.” The difference in the illustration is between an invitation to a friend’s wedding, which is a conditional, take-it-or-leave-it proposition with no serious consequences, and the command of a king, which you spurn at your peril.

Jesus illustrated this serious call of the gospel in the parable of the wedding feast in Matthew 22. In that parable “many are called, but few are chosen” (v. 14). Those who are called are really called (or to use the language of the Canons, “unfeignedly called”), for the king is serious in the call: “Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage” (v. 4). Not to come to the wedding supper is to despise both the king and his son. Not to come is to anger the king: “When the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city” (v. 7). Those who were unfeignedly, earnestly, truly, and seriously called were, to use the words of the parable, “not worthy” (v. 8). Therefore, God commanded his servants, “Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage” (v. 9). We must remember that there are serious, eternal consequences for those who do not believe the gospel or for those who despise the gospel call (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 13:38-41, 43-48).

Therefore, when God calls all to come to him through the preaching of the gospel, he is serious, truthful, and not hypocritical in his call. God is pleased that those who are called should repent and believe in Jesus Christ. God never rejects those who come to Jesus Christ (John 6:37). Because faith and repentance please God, he is displeased when those who hear the gospel continue in impenitence and unbelief.

However, the one who believes in the well-meant offer does make God out to be hypocritical, for God supposedly sincerely offers salvation to all hearers, while he does not have salvation to give. Christ did not die to purchase salvation for all sinners. How then can God offer salvation to all? How can God desire that sinners possess salvation that he did not ordain for them to have and that Jesus did not purchase for them on the cross? In fact, the Holy Spirit is determined not to give salvation to the reprobate. How then could God desire their salvation? This is why modern proponents of the well-meant offer are diluting the five points—they do not fit with the “well-meant offer” and these proponents know it. Certainly, therefore, this article of the Canons does not fit with their modern well-meant offer theory, despite the fact that the Christian Reformed Church appealed to it in 1924 in support of its doctrine of the well-meant gospel offer.



More to come! (DV)

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