ART. 9. FAULT OF REJECTION NOT IN GOD, BUT IN MAN
The Gospel Is Faultless
The Gospel is not at fault. It is the Gospel of God unto salvation. The Gospel is the good news. There is no bad news in it except for those who reject the good news. The Gospel is light, not darkness. It is a lamp, not a black-out. It is bread, not stones. It is crystal clear spring water, not a stagnant pool. It is the Gospel of repentance (Luke 24:47). It is the everlasting Gospel (Rev. 14:6). It is the glorious Gospel of Christ (II Cor. 4:4). The Gospel is freely offered to all who come in contact with it. It sets no restrictions. Whosoever believeth…shall be saved (John 3:16). It is offered to all who can read it, can hear it, are exposed to it. One who runs may read. One who hears may hear. One who knows of it, may inquire about it. One who hungers for it, can be fed. One who thirsts for it, his thirst will be quenched. The Gospel is the Gospel of hope, not of despair. When Jesus came into Galilee (Mark 1:15) he bade the Galileans repent and believe the Gospel. The Gospel is offered without money and without price. There is nothing wrong with the Gospel.
The Christ Is Faultless
The Christ offered in the Gospel is faultless. No one can say anything against the sufficiency of his sacrifice, against the quality of the ransom he paid, against the love that prompted him to empty himself of his glory, taking on the form of a servant and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death (Phil. 2:6). No one can criticize his invitation to all who labor and are heavy laden to find rest in him (Matt. 11:28). No one can find fault with the answer to the question, What must I do to be saved? The answer contains the rich covenantal promise of salvation to him who believes and to his house (Acts 16:31). Christ himself could not be more wonderful than he is. His love could not be greater than it is. His sacrifice could not be more efficacious than it is. His offer could not be more sincere than it is. His blood could not wash away sins more effectively than it does. The price he paid could not be more costly than it is. The hope in Christ could not be more glorious than it is. The reconciliation could not be more satisfactory to the Father than is the reconciliation he wrought. The victory Christ won over Satan, could not be more thoroughgoing than it is. There is no fault in Christ.
God Is Faultless
Perhaps you agree that the Gospel and the Christ of the Gospel are Faultless, but you have difficulty believing that God is faultless. You object to God’s plan of election whereby God decreed to save some of the human race, not all. You may tend to find fault with this and consequently to exonerate man of any blame. You argue, “If man has lost the ability to exercise the saving faith necessary unto salvation, how can God still hold man responsible”? Isn’t it God’s fault that some are lost? Why blame man? That way of reasoning is old as the hills. Paul encountered it, yes, Adam used it! “The woman Thou gavest me,” puts the blame right on the God Who gave the woman. This kind of reasoning is instigated by Satan who wants you to believe that God, not man, is really at fault.
How dare man transfer the blame of his deliberate, his willful disobedience, to the Cod whom he willfully disobeyed? Man chose death against God’s most solemn warning that “in the day thou eatest of it, thou shalt surely die” (Gen. 2:11). There is no fault in God Who is infinitely holy, infinitely just, infinitely loving, infinitely true, infinitely wise, infinitely perfect. For Adam and Eve to have flaunted the sincerity of God in his issuance of the probationary command, was the worst thing they could have done. For any man to turn his back to the gospel of Jesus Christ, to the Word of God, is the worst kind of disobedience. There is no fault in God.
Man Is At Fault
Man willfully rejects the Gospel. “Some of whom called, regardless of their danger, reject the Word of life.” Though they are warned of punishment in hell, they minimize the threat and continue in the sinful rejection of the Gospel. “Others, though they receive it, suffer it not to make a lasting impression on their heart.” For a while they exercise a kind of faith that sooner or later proves to be only temporary. There are also those “who choke the seed of the Word by perplexing cares and the pleasures of this world, and produce no fruit.” What are some seed chokers? There is the craze for making money, the being too busy to cultivate the soul, an undue emphasis on sports so that there is no time for the Word and for prayer, there is the being too wrapped up in social events to exercise oneself unto godliness, the eagerness to hold two or three jobs which rob one of maintaining good spiritual habits, the being too wrapped up in T.V. programs and other amusements to look and look and look at God as revealed in his Word. In short, it is the being too busy with secondary and tertiary matters to preserve ones own immortal soul, too busy with the temporal to relish the eternal.
You object, How can one be at fault when he has lost the ability of himself to love God? How can man be at fault if God has chosen some. to be vessels of wrath? It is not God’s fault that those “who are called by the ministry of the Word refuse to come and be converted.” It is not God’s fault that some “reject the Word of life”; it is the rejecter that docs the rejecting. Listen to this: “I do not believe in the existence of a supernatural being of any type, of any name. Corallary to this, I do not believe in the validity of any so-called supernatural being.” Would you believe that this was written by a young man whom lance taught in a Christian school? He even writes that the more he hears from friends, relatives (he has a godly mother and godly relatives), pastors (he has been reared in the C.R.C.), the more he is “convinced of the soundness of his opinions.” To my dismay, he is deliberately rejecting the Word of Life! It is this man’s own fault. Please pray that this young man may repent and believe the Gospel. It is not God’s fault that some who hear the Gospel suffer it not “to make a lasting impression on their heart.” They turn away from it, preferring the flesh pots of Egypt or the philosophies of Athens. It is not God’s fault that some “choke the seed of the Word by perplexing cares and the pleasures of the world.” That is the choice such a defector makes. That is what he prefers. He is doing just what he wants and pleases to do.
The fact that one does as he pleases does not say, however, that he is spiritually free. In his spiritual bondage he still acts as he pleases to act. “True liberty,” says A. Pink, “is not the power to live as we please, but to live as we ought.” Isn’t this a significant definition of liberty? Man ought to live according to the will of God. Man ought to confess his sin and seek cleansing in the precious blood of the Lamb of God. Because of his sinful nature, unregenerate man refuses to serve God, his Maker. He refuses to seek cleansing. From the day Adam and Eve did it, man keeps on declaring his independence of God. Because of the free choice of our representative, Adam, man is dead in trespasses and sin and by his own choice, continues in sin, a choice for which he is every wit responsible. His inability does not exonerate him from his responsibility. Men who want to reason away man’s responsibility because of his inability, are confusing human responsibility with divine predestination. Man’s inability to comprehend the relation between predestination and human responsibility docs not give license to reject either. In his Apologetics (p.16 ), Dr. C. Van Til says, “It is totally inconsistent with the idea of creatureliness that man should strive for comprehensive knowledge; if it could be attained, it would wipe God out of existence; man would then be God.”
That the unregenerate cannot do as he ought to do is his own fault. That he cannot, does not relieve him of his responsibility. Ones inability to pay you the $10,000 he owes you, does not relieve him of his responsibility to pay his debt. You might well be the last one to relieve him of that responsibility since the $10,000 is yours.
Ponder these statements of Arthur Pink: “Left to himself, the natural man is so depraved at heart that he cannot come to Christ” (p. 187). “Should some sinner here object, I cannot help being born into this world with a depraved heart, and therefore I am not responsible for any moral and spiritual inability which accrue from it, the reply would be, Responsibility and Culpability lie in the indulgence of the depraved propensities, the free indulgence, for God does not force any to sin” (p. 189). “Why has God demanded of man that which he is incapable of performing? The first answer is, Because God refuses to lower His standard to the level of our sinful infirmities” (p. 198). God does not have to adjust his standards to fit our willful choices. Our choices must fit his standards. Weigh the following statement from lain Murray’s The Forgotten Spurgeon (p. 106). “However much it is beyond the power of reason to reconcile the command to sinners to believe on the Son of God for salvation with the truth that only grace can enable them to do so, there is no conflict between the two things in Scripture. Spurgeon took these two truths, man’s duty to believe and his sinful inability to do so, and used them like the two jaws of a vice to grip the sinner’s conscience.” Prof. J. Murray, the just retired professor of Systematic Theology at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia, makes the following statement in his book Redemption Accomplished and Applied, “The fact that regeneration is the prerequisite of faith in no way relieves us of the responsibility to believe nor does it eliminate the priceless privilege that is ours as Christ and his claims are pressed upon us in full and free overtures of his grace. Our inability is no excuse for our unbelief nor does it provide us with any reason for not believing. As we are presented with Christ in the Gospel there is no reason for the rejection of unbelief and all reason demand the entrustment of faith” (p. 140).
The trouble with those who dare to find fault with God is partly due, if not entirely, to the fact that they wittingly, or unwittingly, allow their thinking to revolve around man rather than around God. They seem to forget that the glory of God is the primary concern of the God of glory. “…the ultimate end of the Gospel is not the conversion of man but the glory of God” (The Forgotten Spurgeon by I. Murray, p. 117). God does everything for his own glory and everything we do must also be primarily for his glory, whether we eat, drink, or consider the matter of election. To lay the fault on God is to say that God was wrong. To say God was wrong is for sinful man to sit in judge men over the righteous God as if man were mOre righteous than God. Perish the thought! The God who is truth cannot be wrong. To judge him wrong is to use another standard or truth than the standard of him Who is the truth. The matter of God being at fault should not even arise in our minds as-creatures, sinful creatures, short-sighted creatures at that.
“God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” The call of God to man through his Word is a sincere call. Again, to accuse God of insincerity because he has not elected everybody is to deny the perfection of his perfections. God is truth. Insincerity stands in conflict with truth. God is just. Insincerity stands in conflict with justice. God is love. Insincerity stands in conflict with love. God and insincerity are mutually exclusive. John Calvin says: “…the will of God is not only pure from every fault, but the highest standard of perfection, even the law of all laws” (Institutes, Bk. 3, Ch. 23). Calvin also says; “Man falls…according to the appointment of Divine Providence; but he falls by his own fault. The Lord had a little before pronounced ‘everything that he had made’ to be ‘very good.’ Whence, then, comes the depravity of man to revolt from his God? Lest it be thought to come from creation, God had approved and commended what had proceeded from himself. By his own wickedness, therefore, he corrupted the nature he had received pure from the Lord, and by his fall he drew all posterity with him into destruction. Wherefore let us rather contemplate the evident cause of condemnation, which is nearer to us in the corrupt nature of mankind, than search after a hidden and altogether incomprehensible one in the predestination of God” (Ibid, Bk. 3, Ch. 23).
This lesson covers only one article because the writer thinks the material will evoke much discussion. Some of our people are much troubled about man’s responsibility in spite of his inability. May the leader prayerfully prepare himself for conducting this lesson in such a way that he will make clear what the Bible teaches about this matter. What matters is that we know what God’s Word teaches.
1. Show that although God’s predestination covers the matter of election and rejection, God, who made man good, did not force man to sin.
2. Show that man’s inability does not absolve him of responsibility because God made man a responsible being, from which responsibility God never released him.
3. In connection without inability to understand that although God has predestined all things to come to pass, man is fully responsible, discuss this statement of Calvin, “To be ignorant of things which it is neither possible nor lawful to know, is to be learned: an eagerness to know them, is a species of madness” (The last sentence of section 8, Ch. 3, Bk. 3). Compare Van Til’s statement mentioned in this lesson with that of Calvin.
4. Show that all through the Scripture it is evident that it is ones own fault if one is lost.
5. Comment on this statement of Calvin: “And we should feel no reluctance to submit our understanding to the infinite wisdom of God, so far as to acquiesce in its many mysteries.” Isn’t doing this the very essence of meekness and of creatureliness?
ART. 10. RESPONSE TO THE GOSPEL NOT OF MAN BUT OF GOD
Just as truly as the fault of rejecting God lies in man, so truly the response to the Gospel is not of man but of God. Yet the Pelagians ascribe the favorable response to the Gospel to the proper exercise of man’s free will. He holds that unregenerate man is furnished with that measure of grace which enables him before regeneration to believe the Gospel and to repent of his sin; that is, he is capable apart from the new birth to obey the call of the Gospel and to turn to God. He is different from those who reject the Gospel only in that he has employed his free will to receive and to believe the Gospel. Thus they consider faith a part of the equipment with which God has endowed natural man.
This position is a denial of the total depravity of man. If unregenerate man is endowed with the ability to believe. he cannot be said to be totally depraved. How differently the Bible pictures natural man! God’s Word pictures man as dead in trespasses and sin (Eph. 2:1), not one of whom seeketh after God (Rom. 3: 11), not one of whom doeth good, no not one (Rom. 3:12). To be able to believe, is to be able to do good; yet God’s Word says none doeth good, no not one. If not even one does good, then not one by nature exercises saving faith. Furthermore, one spiritually dead cannot engage in an activity that gives evidence of spiritual life. Faith is certainly evidence of spiritual life. If one exercises saving faith, one has first been made alive to be able to exercise that faith. This is precisely what the Calvinist believes. He believes it because that is exactly what the Bible teaches.
Response Divinely Actuated
Response to the Gospel must be “wholly ascribed to God.” Faith is a gift of God never evidenced before regeneration takes place. The Holy Spirit works that faith in us “by the hearing of the Word preached” (Rom. 10:14).
The Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ “chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world…that we should be holy and without blemish before Him in love, having foreordained us unto adoption…according to the good pleasure of his will” (Eph. 1:4–5). Whom the Father foreordained them he also called (Rom. 8:30). In his own time and under circumstances he arranges, God calls his own out of darkness into his marvelous light. The Father arranged the meeting between Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch that he might effectually call the eunuch into the Kingdom of Jesus Christ. He arranged the meeting between Peter and Cornelius. God doesn’t merely call a sinner. The sinner needs more. God confers upon his chosen ones “faith and repentance.” God provides the arm, the means whereby the re-born child can reach out to him to believe on him and to embrace him. The Lord does even more. He rescues the believer from the power of darkness. Only one greater than the power of darkness can rescue us from the power of darkness. No human power equals in strength the power of darkness. Only God Almighty can rescue us from the power of Satan and give us entrance into the Kingdom of God. He translates the believer into the Kingdom of his own Son. When he authorizes the release of a sinner from the bondage of Satan, Satan has to surrender his prey. All this God does for his chosen ones that “they may show forth the praises of Him who has called them out of darkness into His marvelous light and may glory not in themselves but in the Lord.” The praise and the glory belong to the Lord! God saves the elect for his own sake, not, first of all, for the elect’s sake. Would that all of us Christians would grasp this truth more fully. With what abandon we would serve our covenant God, praise him and glory in him!! Can we say with Paul, “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me and I unto the world” (Gal. 6:16)?
Yet the response to the Gospel is not of man but of God. The Rev. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones does not hesitate to say that “without the work and authority and power of the Holy Spirit, there would never be a single believer in our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (Authority. p. 76). He substantiates this claim by making special mention of Eph. 2 and of Acts 16:14. Salvation is indeed of God, not of man.
ART. 11. THOROUGH WORK OF GOD IN THE ELECT
God does everything he does perfectly, thoroughly. He docs not begin and fail to end. He does not purpose to do something only to find himself hindered in doing it. “…hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?” (Num. 23:19b). Observe all he does to the object of his redemption. This article is packed with the facts. “When God accomplishes his good pleasure in the elect, or works in them true conversion,” he does not terminate his activity with the external call only to abide in the decisions of man. No, he continues the process to the very end. He illuminates the mind of the convert by his Holy Spirit so that such an one can “understand and discern the things of the Spirit of God.” “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; …and he cannot know them, because they are spiritually judged” but the spiritually quickened man is enabled by the Spirit to discern spiritual things. The Holy Spirit “pervades the inmost recesses of man.” He pervades his mind, heart, and will. The Holy Spirit opens the closed heart, or, to use God’s Word in Ezekiel, he takes the stony heart out of one’s flesh and gives one a heart of flesh. The Holy Spirit softens the hardened heart making it responsive to the work of the Spirit, responsive to spiritual values, to spiritual food. He seals the heart with the covenantal seal of circumcision, binding it to his own Father heart. The Holy Spirit infuses new qualities into the will which having been dead and therefore in bondage, he quickens, enabling it to make choices pleasing to God. Formerly that will was “evil, disobedient, refractory.” He infuses into that will the qualities of goodness, obedience, and pliability. He actuates the will to do the good, to obey the Lord, to bow to its Maker. He strengthens that will so that it can increasingly do the good, increasingly obey the Lord by doing his commandments ever more faithfully and by increasingly conforming to the will of God. “Not my will but Thine be done.” “I delight to do Thy will, O my God, yea, Thy law is within my heart” (Ps. 40:8). That law is no longer external. The heart loves the law of God and the doing of the law evidences the love of a Christian for his Lord and Master.
1. Show from the Scriptures that the matter of salvation does not begin with a decision of man but with an irresistible act of God. Show that God opens the heart of man, not man his own heart.
2. If the will of natural man is not free spiritually, what must happen before man is able to act as a spiritually free agent? When can man again will to do the will of God?
3. Do the altar calls in modern evangelism ever leave the impression that man’s will is free? Illustrate.
4. How extensive is the work of God in salvation? How much of man’s personality does it involve?
5. With the use of the material in this lesson, show that the Arminian belief that grace is resistible, and the belief that saints can permanently fall from grace flow from his concept of the free will of man.
6. Does our belief that the response to the Gospel is not of man but of God affect the content of our Bible teaching?
7. Must our missionaries be primarily concerned about the number of souls won or about honOring God in presenting the Word of God faithfully? If God honors himself in effectually calling all the elect, then God’s honor must be our first concern too, must it not?
8. What comfort is there for the minister and the missionary, yes, for the Christian in his witnessing that God is the primary Actor in salvation?
9. Show that the fact that God is the prime Mover in salvation could be the strongest incentive to hasten the spread of the Gospel to the ends of earth.
10. What incentive is there in the teachings’ of Articles 10 and 11 for praying much for the Holy Spitit?
11. What justification do you think Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones has for saying in his Book, Authority, that of the study of the authority of Jesus, of the authority of the Scriptures, and of the authority of the Holy Spirit. a study of the authority of the Holy Spirit is the most important of all?
ART. 12. THE NEW LIFE IS A SUPERNATURAL WORK
The New life Is Wholly a Divine Working
Regeneration is a new creation (John 3:3), it is making alive of one formerly dead in trespasses and sin (Rom. 6:8), and all this happens without man’s aid. The external preaching of the Word is not enough to bring this about. Many are exposed to the preaching of the Word who remain dead in their sins. It is not brought about by “moral suasion.” One persuaded against his will, is of the same opinion still. A mere recommendation of the Gospel will in itself not result in regeneration nor will any warn advising to heed it. Neither is regeneration, in its narrow sense, brought about in dependency on the will of man after “God has performed his part.” It is not a cooperative venture.
Man can give birth to himself neither physically nor spiritually. Man cannot renew himself. That which is necessary to renewal does not come from within. A careful study of Ezek. 37:1–14 stresses this truth. It is God Who commands Ezekiel to prophesy, and it is Cod Who gives life. He it is who renews man. A thing created docs not create itself. Man cannot re-create himself either. Only God, the Creator, can do that. A dead being cannot resurrect itself. Only God can resurrect a dead being. One dead in trespasses also has to be resurrected unto life. God makes alive; something dead lacks the power to give itself life. This new life is not ultimately in the power of man.
The New Life Is a Supernatural Work
The authors of the Canons characterize this supernatural work with the use of several strong adjectives.
1. This supernatural work is a powerful work. Also in the work of regeneration “none can stay His hand or say unto Him, what doest Thou?” Because God is omnipotent he can always do his good pleasure. No one is able to hinder God from carrying out his plan and purpose. His counsel stands precisely because no one is able to hinder him in. its execution. The finite cannot overpower the infinite!
2. This supernatural work is a most delightful work. How delightful to be freed from the bondage of sin, to be delivered from enslavement to Satan, and to be translated into the freedom of the children of God. The new-born soul takes “delight in approaching unto God” (lsa. 58:2). “I delight to do Thy will, O my God” (Ps. 40:8). With the children of Israel the regenerate man delights himself “in the great goodness of God.” No wonder the Ethiopian eunuch “went on his way rejoicing” (Acts 8:30). How sweet to be wooed by the Saviour and to be captivated by him through the mighty work of the Holy Spirit! “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.”
3. This supernatural work is a most astonishing work. How could God have mercy on me, a great sinner? Why did he choose me to be one of his own when he sovereignly passes others by? Why did he form me in my ugliness into a vessel 6t for his use? “I know not why God’s wondrous grace to me He hath made known; Nor why, unworthy, Christ in love, redeemed me for His own.” It is indeed a most astonishing work.
4. This supernatural work is a most mysterious work. “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth; so is everyone that is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8).
“I know not how the Spirit moves,
Convincing men of sin,
Revealing Jesus through the Word,
Creating faith within.”
We know not how the Spirit works, but we know that he works. We know it because we experience it. We know it because he has taken lodging in our hearts and is sanctifying us. We know because he has revealed it to us in his Word.
5. This supernatural work is an ineffable work. The Dutch word for “ineffable” is “onuitsprekelijk,” which word may be more meaningful to some of us. It is inexpressible, unutterable. Words fail to express the supernatural work of regeneration.
6. This supernatural work is comparable to creation when God said, “Let there be light.” When God said “let there be,” there was. It is comparable to the resurrection from the dead. Regeneration is a calling of men dead in sin to spiritual life. God speaks and it is so, also in regeneration. When that mighty act of God transpires in the heart of man, he is “certainly” regenerated, “infallibly” regenerated and “effectually” regenerated. None of the uncertainty, of the fallibility, nor of the ineffectuality of man’s reaction enter into this mighty work of God. God speaks and man is born again. It is an irresistible work of the Holy Spirit which normally takes place in the milieu of the Word of God.
7. This supernatural work of regeneration is also an enabling working. When man’s will is renewed it is “actuated and influenced by God, but in consequence of this influence becomes itself active.” After the Holy Spirit renews the will, man wills to believe and repent. Then man wills to do the will of God. He wills to keep God’s commandments. The reborn man is not powerless. He is enabled to act as a spiritually-minded being. John Owen in his work of the Holy Spirit writes very helpfully about the enabling power of the believer. Several quotations follow.
Owen says that there is in the soul of the believer a principle or habit of grace. “This principle or habit of holiness inclines and disposes the subject of it to acts of its own kind.” Again, “The new heart is the new nature…Every nature has its proper disposition and actings. The principle of holiness” (to which the habit of grace inclines the heart) “is such a nature; and wherever this principle is, it disposes the whole soul to acts of holiness, and that universally, …constantly…permanently.” He goes on to assert that the reborn has “the power of holy obedience.” “There is power accompanying the habit of grace, as well as propensity or inclination.” This enabled Paul to say, “I can do all things through Christ that strengtheneth me” (Phil. 4:13). The regenerate have a principle of spiritual life; and where there is life, there is power in its kind, and for its end. He explains that the power consists in power in the mind, in the will, and in the affections. The power in the mind “consists in a spiritual light and ability to discern spiritual things in a spiritual manner.” The power in the will “consists in its liberty, freedom, and ability to consent to choose and embrace spiritual things.” The power in the affections consists in the “affections, which naturally are principle servants and instruments of sin to be engaged to God.”
How right Feenstra is when he says that an active faith works, bears fruit, and that the dead who is made alive is going to walk. One really reborn is going to will to do God’s will, is going to walk in the ways of the Lord, is going to think God’s thoughts after him, is going to love to keep God’s commandments. All this because the Holy Spirit dwells within. This gives him enabling power. He is strengthened with power through the Holy Spirit in the inward man (Eph. 3:16). Also read II Peter 1:3, 4.
ART. 13. REGENERATION NOT FULLY COMPREHENDED, BUT ACTUALLY EXPERIENCED
The Rev. J. C. Feenstra so well instructs us always to distinguish between knowing and comprehend. ing. The poet already referred to in this lesson, realizes that we do not know how the Spirit moves to convince men of sin, but he confidently affirms:
“I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able To keep that which I have committed unto Ilim against that day.”
We know that we cannot comprehend in this life. We take God at his Word, knowing that finite man must believe what God says and does, even when finite reason cannot grasp it.
The reborn child of God finds it enough to know and experience that he is reborn, the Holy Spirit bearing witness with his spirit that he is a child of God (Rom. 8:16). He finds it enough by the grace of God “to believe with the heart and to love the Saviour.” The Christian lives by faith not by reason; he loves the Saviour even though he cannot comprehend the wonderful saving grace of God in which the marvelous love of the triune God shines like the midday sun. Our hope as Christians is a sure hope, a “hope that putteth not to shame; because the love of God hath been spread abroad in our hearts through the Holy Spirit which was given unto us” (Rom. 5:5).
ART. 14. THE WILL TO RELIEVE AND THE ACT OF BELIEVING ARE BOTH IRRESISTIBLE ACTS OF GOD
Saving grace is irresistible grace. It is given by God “not to be accepted or rejected at his pleasure,” as the Arminians hold, but a gift that is “conferred upon him, breathed and infused into him.” It is a divine activity, an irresistible work of God.
Is Faith only in Part a Gift? Faith is not only in part a gift so that “God bestows the power or ability to believe” but he leaves it up to man to decide whether he wants to use that power or ability to believe, thus making the actual believing an act of man not of God. Such error violates the teaching of Scriptures so clearly stated in Ephesians 2:8, 9. The Holy Spirit through Paul wants the Ephesian Christians to realize beyond any doubt that they were saved by grace through faith, and that this was not of themselves for it is a gift of God; nor was it of works lest any man should boast. All boasting is excluded. Unstinting praise is due God for his gift. The Ephesian Christians did not come nigh to God of themselves; they “were made nigh by the blood of Christ” (Eph. 2:13). “Not onto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy truth’s sake” (Ps. 115:1).
To Will and to Work Are of God
Faith is a gift of God because “lie works in man both to will and to work … and produces both the will to believe and the act of believing.” How true the authors of the Canons are to the Word of God also here since the Holy Spirit made it clear to the Philippian Christians that it is God who worked in them both to will and to work of his good pleasure!
Because faith is a gift, entirely a gift, infused in us, we “are made nigh,” we are made into children of God, we are adopted into God’s family nevermore to be banished from the family circle which God jealously, powerfully, graciously keeps intact.
For the Leader
To read Owen’s work of the Holy Spirit is a most worthwhile venture.
1. Discuss some of the mysteries of Biblical truths which are beyond our understanding, but which we enjoy and embrace by faith.
2. Discuss together that the very dry bones in the vision recorded in Ezekiel 37 did not respond of themselves. Show that as Ezekiel preached, God was active in bringing them back to life.
3. How do you react to such remarks as “I decided to become a Christian,” “I accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as my Saviour,” “The first time I heard the Gospel, I immediately accepted Christ”? What is the language of the Scriptures? How did Paul react? Cornelius? the Jailor? the Ethiopian? the eunuch? Does faith after aU depend on the free will of man?
4. If the supernatural work of regeneration by the Holy Spirit is an “enabling working,” may we Christians talk as if the Holy Spirit does not enable us to do what we ought to do? Do you think, for example, that the Holy Spirit does not enable a Christian father to pray aloud with his family? a Christian mother to pray with her children? an elder or a preacher to pray spontaneously? Are not the fears we present as excuses, fears of men rather than fear of God? Is the fact that some of our leaders are reading their public prayers not due to their fear of men rather than their fear of God? Isn’t the speaking to God in prayer as our position in life demands it, one of the “all things” which the Holy Spirit enables us to do? (If fear of faulty form in prayer leads us to more and more formality in prayer, let us throw form to the winds. What we need is evidence of the enabling working of the mighty Spirit of God.)
5. Discuss Errors 8 and 9 which the Synod of Dordt rejected.
6. Are we of Reformed persuasion entirely free, in practice, from the errors the Synod of Dordt rejected? (See pages 58–60 in the back of the Psalter Hymnal.)