Studies in the Canons of Dordt – Lessons 30 and 31



God Preserves the Saints

There are three reasons given why a Christian cannot persevere in grace in his own strength. These arc indwelling sin, the temptations of the world, and the temptations of Satan. These three foes are too strong for a Christian to resist in his own strength. The saints persevere because they arc preserved. Note the passive form of the second verb in the previous sentence. It is because God preserves them that they persevere. It is God who conferred the grace, who also confirms the grace, and who preserves them in that grace.

Indwelling Sin Keeps a Christian Weak

When God’s children confide in their own strength, the Lord again and again lets them discover their inability to do so, by permitting them to fall into sin. How confident Peter was that he would never be offended in Jesus. How confident some parents are that their child will never commit this or that sin, only to find out that their child lands in jail, is guilty of one kind of immorality or another, departs from the ways of the Lord, and so forth. The Christian who relies on his own strength will find himself exposed to attacks by a foe far stronger than himself. Unless the Lord holds us fast, we shall fall.

Temptations of the World and of Satan Lure the Christian

The temptations of the world seem to be greater than ever in our day of progress. How easily the automobile makes access to a thousand temptations possible. Think of the parked car in a dark, secluded spot. Think of how conveniently the car takes a couple to the beaches. Think of the easy access to the theatre, the dance hall, the gambling joint, the tavern, the night club. How conveniently the television exposes child, youth, or adult to scenes and ideas that teach one the ways of the world. How persistent magazine peddlers are to feed youthful readers with soul-destroying poison. How suggestive advertisements can be! The world is thrust upon us. Only as God is a wall of fire about us will we be able to stand in this evil day.

How busy Satan is in the life of the individual, the family, the community, the church, the nation! Yes, he is busy even in the church. What attractive tools he uses to gain his ends. There is a kind of ecumenism, for example, that promotes apostasy. There are leaders in some apostate churches who promote the new morality, who feed their followers stones for bread, who assure eternal security to everybody in the new universalism. They distort the Scriptures to the destruction of the church.

Against all this the Christian cannot hold out alone. Only God can keep him from falling. Only God can supply the armor he needs that he may stand in the evil day. Let us not take credit for persevering in the faith. We persevere because God who conferred grace and confirms it also ‘powerfully preserves it. “My Father, who hath given them unto me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand” (John 10:29).


Meaning of Temptation What are temptations? Calvin defines them thus: “For the corrupt conceptions of the mind, provoking us to transgressions of the law, whether suggested by our own concupiscence or excited by the devil, are temptations; and things not evil in themselves, nevertheless become temptations through the subtlety of the devil, when they are obtruded on our eyes in such a manner that their intervention occasions our seduction or declension from God” (Institutes, Bk. III). Dr. R. South, a theologian of the previous century, says, “Chiefly and most frequently the Scripture means by it such a trial, as is intended to supplant and ruin a man in his spiritual concerns, by inducing him to sin, and so subjecting him to the fatal effects and consequents thereof.”


Steps in Temptation

The writers of the Canons realize that “converts are not always so influenced and actuated by the Spirit of God as not in some particular instances sinfully to deviate from the guidance of divine grace, so as to be seduced by and comply with the lusts of the flesh.” When is a man tempted? “Every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin; and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death” (James 1:14, 15). In these words of James, Dr. South sees five “steps or gradations, by which a temptation grows upon, and at length prevails over the souls of men.” The first step he calls seduction, a being drawn away from the path of duty to think on that which tempts him. The second step he calls enticement. Now he does not merely think upon the sinful matter but dwells upon it with delight and begins to justify it in his imagination. The third step involves “consent of the will.” This he believes to be the meaning of lust conceiving. “So that the soul hereby grows, as it were, big and impregnate with a temptation; making it restless until it commits the sinful act.” The fourth step or gradation is the “commission of sin suggested to it.” The last step is that of sin reigning and lording it over a man, issuing in death. How many of these steps will God allow a Christian to take? We know, as South also states, that God will never allow him to take the last step, but sometimes a Christian is seduced; sometimes he is also enticed; sometimes he sinks so far that his will consents to the sin that tempts him; yes, sometimes he goes so far away from God as actually to commit the sin which “lust hath conceived.”

How to Fight Temptation

The weapons with which to fight temptation are watching and praying. Note! Not merely praying without watching. If we don’t watch, if we aren’t on our guard against temptation, if we pray that the Lord protect and keep us from sin this evening but we fail to be on the watch, do you think we will be kept? If we pray to be kept but straightway walk into the traps of Satan, can we expect to be kept? We Christians have the responsibility to watch and pray. To neglect either is to invite Satan to wedge his way in. “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation” (Matt. 26:41).

“That man is blest who fearing God

From sin restrains his feet;

Who will not stand with wicked men,

Who shuns the scorner’s seat.”


Look at the list of the terrible, heart-rending effects the sins of the saints have:

1. They offend God.

They very highly offend God. To offend God, who sent his only begotten Son to purchase us with his blood, is the greatest of all offenses. To answer redemption with rebellion, to answer love with lust, to answer truth with the lie, to answer justice with lawlessness, to answer righteousness with unrighteousness, to answer faithfulness with adultery, to answer purity with licentiousness spells the height of ingratitude and unfaithfulness.

2. They incur a deadly guilt.

The “enormous sins” into which at times God’s children fall, heap a deadly guilt upon them. Such sins make them guilty with a guilt that deserves the wages of sin. And if the Lord would mark these transgressions the guilty one could not stand. The ordinary transgressions on the part of the Christian make him undeserving of eternal life; how much more the “enormous sins”!

3. They grieve the Holy Spirit.

We may not grieve the Holy Spirit. How sinful to grieve him who sealed us unto the day of redemption (Eph. 4:30). How sinful to grieve the Great Sanctifier with our unholiness, to grieve the Great Comforter, who abides with his people, with actions that invite his departure. How sinful to grieve the One who leads his child into all truth by giving the lie to that truth. Feenstra aptly remarks, “He wants to burn out sin and we entertain sin. He wants to use the means and we neglect them.”

4. They interrupt the exercise of faith.

The grievous sins of God’s people interrupt watching and praying, meditation and worship. They take the song out of the heart. They cast a chill over exercises of worship which otherwise warm the heart and thrill the soul. They becloud that “certain knowledge of God and His righteousness” and rob one of that ‘“hearty confidence that all our sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake.” At such times the Bible can even become an unwelcome book and its contents seem lifeless.

5. It wounds the conscience.

The “enormous sins” of God’s people wound the conscience very grievously. The conscience condemns one however hard one tries to subdue that conscience. The conscience accuses one of unfaithfulness to the faithful God, of lovelessness toward’ the God who so loved that he gave his Son for us, of unholy action against the holy God. Somehow sleep is disturbed, peace has fled, the Bible pricks the conscience too much to read it. A terrible wound is inflicted upon the conscience as a result of which the heart cannot sing. The soul cannot pray. The mind cannot harmonize the “is” with the “ought.”

6. They may even lose the sense of God’s favor.

How a child can sob over losing the favor of his parent when he has been naughty. How troubled a youth can be when he loses the good-will of his lady friend. How heart-broken the Christian should be when he loses the sense of God’s favor. How he longs to have God restore unto him the joy of salvation. This joy he will experience only after he repents and returns to God as a prodigal son who, realizing his unworthiness, nevertheless pleads mercy and finds once more the light of God’s countenance shining upon him.


1. Wouldn’t it be better to speak of the preservation of the saints than of the perseverance of the saints?

2. Why doesn’t the omnipotent God keep his children from falling into sin? How does the fact that he doesn’t, reflect on our responsibility?

3. Mention some of the chief means of temptation in our day.

4. Can and does Satan use the ecumenical movement at all to tempt the true church?

5. Name some of the temptations confronting Christian youth in military service, at college or university, in factory or office, at home or away from home.

6. What is the difference between grieving the Holy Spirit and the sin against the Holy Spirit?

7. How is God’s favor restored? Is it by undoing the past? Is it by being good from now on? Is it by improving on the past?



How comforting is the truth stated in this article as it reflects the teaching of God’s Word. Those who believe this truth should be the most deeply happy Christians of all. This teaching is perhaps of little concern to such as think they can separate the Christ from his teachings. This is dangerous business. The Christ and his teachings are so inseparable that Christ said, “I am the truth.” What he is cannot be separated from what he says he is.

God Keeps His Own

The richness of God’s mercy is abundantly revealed in his preserving his sinful children from ultimate destruction, even those who have committed grievous sins, sins which grieve the Holy Spirit. We know this because God is unchangeable. His purpose of election is unchangeable. He does not both elect and not elect the same person. He does not elect unto temporary salvation and reject the same one unto eternal damnation. Even in the grievous sinning of the saints the Holy Spirit does not withdraw himself wholly from them. His presence may not be manifest at the time but he has not vacated. The elect never lose the grace of adoption. God never divorces his adopted children from him. No one can snatch them out of his hands. God does not suffer his own to forfeit their state of justification. Furthermore, what a comfort to know that God does not suffer his own people to commit the sin unto death.

The Sin Against the Holy Spirit

The following quotations will hopefully help to clarify what the sin against the Holy Ghost is. In his work on the Holy Spirit, Dr. A. Kuyper writes: “The sin against the Holy Spirit can be committed only by persons who, beholding the beauty and majesty of the Lord, turn the light into darkness and deem the highest glory of the Son of God’s love to belong to Satan and his demons.” He says that to commit that sin two things are required, namely, “close contact with the glory which is manifested in Christ or in “His people” and “not mere contempt of that glory, but the declaration that the Holy Spirit which manifests itself in that glory, which is the Holy Spirit, is a manifestation of Satan.” Again, “…he who desecrates, despises, and slanders the Spirit, who speaks in Christ, in His Word, and in His work, as though He were the Spirit of Satan, is lost in eternal darkness.”

Bavinck explains the sin against the Holy Ghost thus: “It is a denial that goes contrary to the conviction of the mind, the enlightenment of the conscience, the dictates of the heart; in a conscious, purposeful, and intentional ascription to the work of Satan what is clearly the work of God, that is, in an absolute blaspheming of the Holy Spirit, in a deliberate explaining that the Holy Spirit is out of the abyss, that the truth is the lie; that Christ is Satan.”

Lenski explains the “sin unto death” as “that sinning which involves the closing of the door to the blood of Christ His Son.”


The Synod of Dordt countered such as believed that one could lose his first regeneration (See Error 8). The seed of regeneration is incorruptible (I Peter 1:23). God himself preserves it in the regenerate. What God preserves cannot be lost. By God’s Word and by his Spirit “He certainly and effectively renews them to repentance, to a sincere and godly sorrow for their sins.” When a child of God repents of his sin and experiences a godly sorrow for his sins, he again seeks forgiveness in the blood of Jesus Christ, he again enjoys the fellowship of a reconciled Cod, he again adores the mercies of God through faith, and he works out his salvation more diligently “with fear and trembling.” He does this, we know, because “it is God Who worketh in him both to will and to work:· Except for the persevering work of the Holy Spirit the Christian’s “willing” would fail and so would his “working.” It is he who preserves in us the “incorruptible seed”; it is he who renews his people unto repentance.


In this article is a pile of evidence that the credit for perseverance rests in God, not man. Let no Christian think he stands in his own strength. Let no Christian think in terms of achieving heaven. Let us rejoice in this that the impossibility of a chosen one to fall ultimately rests in these facts about God:

1. God’s counsel cannot be changed (Heb. 6:17).

2. God’s promise cannot fail (II Cor. 1:20).

3. The call according to God’s purpose cannot be revoked (Rom. 8:30).

4. The merit of Christ cannot be rendered ineffectuaL

5. The intercession of Christ cannot be rendered ineffectual.

6. The preservation of Christ cannot be rendered ineffectual (John 10:28).

7. The sealing of the Holy Spirit cannot be frustrated or obliterated (Eph. 1:13, 14).

It is because God is who he is, that we are safe for time and for eternity. Our security rests in him, the triune God, not in us who are changeable and sinful.


We must distinguish between the certainty of preservation and the degree of assurance a person has who is preserved. One Christian has a greater measure of faith than another. In fact, anyone Christian may experience a greater measure of faith at one time than at another. As one’s faith wavers his assurance wavers. What child of God has never said, “I believe; help Thou my unbelief? There are times when God’s child wonders whether he is really a child of God, whether he is really a living member of the church, whether his sins are really forgiven, and whether Jesus is really preparing a place for him. Doubts assail him. Satan seeks to undermine his faith and to shake his convictions. When a child of God feels that way, he must be guided not by feelings but by knowledge. “I know that my Redeemer liveth.”

When adversities pile up a child of God may wonder whether God has left him, or whether God is angry with him. His faith may falter. On the other hand, when he can say that his lines are fallen unto him in pleasant places and his faith is bright, he experiences the joy of salvation and his heart sings with exultation.

Although the degree of assurance differs “according to the measure of faith,” the child of God knows he is a living member of the church, that his sins are forgiven, and that he has eternal life. He knows this because he believes God’s promises. All the promises of God are for the elect. They are God’s covenantal commitments to us whereby God out of grace obligates himself to us to fulfill them. Therefore we can say, “I know in whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.”


1. If the truth stated in Art. 6 disturbs you because of what you read in Heb. 6:4–6, consider Feenstra’s comment when he says that they tasted but did not eat. There is a difference between tasting and eating.

2. Show that the Arminians are wrong when they make perseverance dependent “on the pleasure of the will whether it will persevere or not” (See Error 2).

3. What does the concept that a person can be saved today and yet be lost in the end do to the work of Christ?

4. Can a heathen commit the sin against the Holy Spirit? Can one who belongs to the apostate church commit the sin?

5. Show that it is not because the believer is what he is that he cannot fall away ultimately, but because God is who he is.

6. Show that there is a relation between one’s measure of faith and the degree of assurance one experiences.

7. What kind of experience might disturb one’s faith and what kind tends to promote one’s faith? Could a similar experience on the part of two Christians increase one’s faith and decrease the other’s?