Studies in the Canons of Dort


A. God’s love manifested

How was the redeeming love of God made known? “To manifest” means “to make known.” God made it known in sending his only begotten Son into the world to suffer and die for his people. There is only one begotten Son of God, who is himself God. That he is God is clearly taught in such passages as Matt. 8:29, Matt. 14:33, Gal. 4:4, John 1:1 and 14, John 10: 36-39, Rom. 1:4, John 14:9, John 10:30. The apostate church is satisfied with a Christ who is merely the flowering of humanity, humanity at its best. The true church knows it would be forever lost were it not that the Son of God, the God-man, in his human nature suffered and died for his people and rose again unto their justification.

B. Meaning of “whosoever believeth”

Both Arminians and Calvinists accept that whosoever believeth in the only begotten Son of God shall not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16). The Arminian, however, interpret the “whosoever believeth” as supporting the view that Jesus died for everybody, the view that the atonement is universal, and that the initial action comes from the one who believes. The Calvinist, seeing John 3:16 in the context of the whole of Scripture, knows that faith is a gift of God exercised only by those to whom God has freely given it by grace (Eph. 2:8). The “whosoever” that come to believe are those on whom the Lord in sovereign mercy bestows the gift of faith. It isn’t this way, that God acts after man has made a decision; it is this way, that only after God has acted, after the Holy Spirit has brought a soul to the new birth and supplied that regenerated soul with faith, that that faith becomes active in the sinner unto salvation. This does not make void the sincere offer of salvation, nor does it make useless the going into the highways and byways to beg people to come in. We know not where God’s own are nor how many there are. We are to go into all the world to preach the gospel to the whole creation, knowing that he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that disbelieveth shall be condemned (Mark 16:16).

Because all this is God-initiated, it is as sure as God is dependable that whosoever believeth shall not perish but have everlasting life. Small wonder that those who believe that man, not God, takes the initiative, also believe in the possibility of the falling away of believers. Man-initiated faith is as unreliable as man is; God-initiated faith is as reliable as God is!

C. Indifference forbidden

This in no wise permits us to become cold and indifferent to going into the highways and byways to beg people to come in. “We violate the order of human thought and trespass the boundary between God’s prerogative and man’s when the truth of God’s sovereign counsel constrains despair or abandonment of concern for the eternal interest of men” (John Murray, The Epistle to the Romans, Vol. H, p. 47).

We believe with all our heart that God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have everlasting liIe. Article 1 teaches that all men are justly condemnable. It is therefore “not unjust, that many are lost, but it is unfathomable grace, that many are saved” (Os. J. C. Feenstra, De Dordtse Leerregelen, p. 25).

For leaders

Jf you can read Dutch the above mentioned book by the Rev. Feenstra, published by Kok in Kampen, the Netherlands, will be of inestimable value to you. lt is a jewel to which I shall frequently refer.

For Discussion

1. Prove from the Scriptures that Karl Barth is wrong in believing that all men will be saved. “According to K. Barth it is a foregone conclusion that sin cannot in the case of any man lead to eternal punishment” ( Dr. C. Van Til, Christianity and Barthianism, p. 134. See also pp. 98 and 110).

2. Barth thinks it is a total misunderstanding of the Gospel when Calvin says that Christ died for some and not for all men (Van Til, Ibid., p. 98). Show from the Bible that Calvin is right.

3. Is Loraine Boettner, D.D., justified, in the light of Scriptures, to make the following assertion? “While numerous individuals are lost, in the final analysis the great majority of the human race is to be found among the saved” (The Atonement, p. 90. On the whole an excellent book).

4. Why should we Calvinists be most ethusiastic about missions.

5. Show that the Calvinistic conception of the sovereignty of God in salvation should not be a hindrance to the progress of the gospel.

6. Why did the way of redemption God provided involve vicarious suffering and dying?


A. Means – God appoints messengers

God’s sovereign mercy shines brightly not only in the sending of the Redeemer, but also in providing the messengers to introduce, to make known that Redeemer. Those messengers of the “joyful tidings” God sends to whom he will and when he will. The work of introducing the Saviour to sinners is under the direction of God himself. “He sends the messengers.” “And how shall they preach except they be sent?” If God sends, he certainly calls before he sends. He sends whom he will, to whom he will, and when he will. The appointments and the schedules are God’s. In commenting on Rom. 10:15, Prof. J. Murray writes: “Those who preach arc Christ’s spokesmen and only the person upon whom he has laid his hand may act in that capacity” (The Epistle to the Romans. Vol. II, p. 59).

B. Subject – Those whom he chooses

It was Paul and Silas, who, on Paul’s second missionary journey, wanted to go “to speak the word in Asia,” but the Holy Spirit forbade them (Acts 16:6). When they wanted to go into Bithynia “the Spirit suffered them not (Acts 16:7). God’s plan for missions must not be disturbed by the decisions of men. He over-rules the who and the when and the where of the bringing of good tidings.

c. Time – God’s own time

Peter was sent to Cornelius at a certain time (Acts 10). Philip was sent toward Gaza to meet the Ethiopian eunuch at n certain time (Acts 8). Paul was sent to Philippi at a certain time. God’s time schedule was such that Paul might not first preach in Asia nor go to Bithynia.

God chooses the man to be his messenger; he chooses the subject to whom the messenger is to go; and he chooses the time when a sinner is to meet the Saviour.

D. Witnessing – common and special

Missions is a God-appointed, not a self-appointed nor a man-appointed task; therefore missionaries must be called of God to the special work, the deliberate work of presenting the gospel. This we must distinguish from the common task of every Christian to let his light so shine before men that they may see his good works and glorify his Father in heaven. We must distinguish between the incidental witnessing which is our common task as Christians and the kind of assignment God had for Paul and Barnabas.

As the prophets and the teachers of the church at Antioch “ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them” (Acts 13:2). The Holy Spirit designated the workers. The church, obeying the Holy Spirit, fasted, prayed, laid hands on Saul and Barnabas, and sent them away (Acts 13:3). Guided by the Holy Spirit, and under the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ, its head, the church is responsible for carrying out the task of missions. Therefore it was to the church at Antioch from which they had been sent forth, that Paul and Barnabas returned and to which “they rehearsed all things that God had done with them and that he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles” (Acts 14:27).

God’s providence goes over the apportioning of responsibility. God knows where he wants to use the light he has put into my soul. I must be willing to let it shine wherever he puts me.

For Leaders

1. You would do well to read pages 16–21 and pages 178–182 of the book Reformed Evangelism by the Baker Book House.

2. If you read the Dutch, you will find a helpful chapter in Handbook der Gereformeerd Evangelisatie by D. Ringnalda. It is entitled Arbeiders in de Evangelisatie.

For Discussion

1. What is the difference between what Ringnalda calls “intentional evangelism” and “unintentional evangelism?” Not all of us are called to the first kind of evangelism; all are called to the second kind.

2. Does God ever call missionaries directly apart from the official church? Under what circumstances is a person justified in doing mission work apart from any church?

3. Can you find any answer in article 3 to the question, “Why must a church be very careful and prayerful about the selection of mission fields? of individuals to man those fields?”

4. What difference in the concept of missions might be reflected in these two statements; (1) “I want to be a missionary,” and (2) “I feel the call to be a missionary”?


A. Rejection – with resultant abiding wrath

Article 4 stresses the solemn thought that upon those who reject the gospel, God’s wrath abides. Man is responsible for rejecting the gospel. This is clearly taught in Acts 13:46. To the Jews in Antioch of Pisidia, who “contradicted the things that were spoken by Paul and Barnabas, Paul and Barnabas spake out boldly and said, It was necessary that the Word of God should first be spoken to you, Seeing ye thrust it from you and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, la, we turn to the Gentiles.”

“The wrath of God abides upon those who believe not this gospel.” It is very unpopular, very antiquated today to speak of the wrath of God, but unpopularity may not deter us from accepting God’s revealed truth in totality. If we accept the full-orbed truth, we must accept that the Bible speaks of the wrath of God. Consider such passages as II Kings 22:13, John 3:36, Rom. 1:18-19, Rom. 2:6,8. What is wrath as applied to God? “Wrath in God must not be conceived of in terms of the fitful passion with which anger is frequently associated in us….Wrath is the holy revulsion of God’s being against that which is the contradiction of his holiness” (J. Murray, Epistle to the Romans, Vol. 1, p. 35).

Both Prof. L. Berkhof and Prof. J. Murray say that the “while we were enemies” of Rom. 5:10 does not exegetically mean that sinners are hostile to God. Berkhof says it means that “they are object of God’s holy discipline.” Murray explains it to refer “to God’s holy hostility to and alienation from us.” This wrath of God has nothing of the arbitrary about it. In comment on Rom. 2:5 Murray writes: “The person addressed, by reason of his hardness of heart is represented as being himself the agent in piling up for himself wrath….There is no wrath of God except as the reaction of his justice and truth against sin” (Epistle to Romans, Vol. I p. 6).

Those who piously hold that God only ever loves, naturally also conclude that God did not have to be reconciled to man but only man to God. Such deny the teaching of John 3:36, Rom. 1:18 and Rom. 5:10. Sinners must be told that “he that believeth on the Son hath eternal life,” but they must also be told that “he that obeyeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:36). Not to inform the sinner of this is to fail to help him see the awfulness of his sinful condition.

B. Acceptance – by faith with resultant delivering grace

The glorious gospel announces deliverance from the wrath of God by a “true and living faith” in the Lord Jesus Christ. Deliverance from destruction and bestowal of eternal life! How wonderful the love of God manifested to believers! How terrible the wrath of God that abides on unbelievers!




A. Man the cause of unbelief

As in article 1 the writers teach that all men are justly condemnable, so here they stress that man is the cause of unbelief. All have sinned and therefore deserve the wages of sin. Man chose to sin; therefore he is responsible for sinning and the cause of it. Man chose to doubt God; therefore he is responsible for his unbelief and the cause of it.

B. God is the cause of faith

Man is, on the other hand, not the cause of faith. Faith is the gift of Cod given to whom God chooses. It is a free gift, not a gift that can be purchased, not a gift dependent on some merit of man to obtain it. It is a gift of grace. “If grace is conditioned in any way by human performance or by the will of man impelling to action, then grace leaves to be grace” (Murray, Ibid., p. 70). In Phil 1:29 we read, “To you it hath been granted in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer in his behalf.” To believe on Christ is something God grants. It is “not of works that no man may glory” (Eph. 2:9).

Man cannot of himself exercise saving faith. A dead body cannot act as if alive. One spiritually dead cannot exercise faith which requires spiritual life to exercise.

For Leaders

1. For a discussion on the Biblical concept of the wrath of God and the Barthian concepts sce Dr. C. Van Til’s Christianity and Barthianism, pp. 159–166.

2. For a discussion on discussion number 5 below, see Boettner’s book, Roman Catholicism, espccially chapter 12.

For Discussion

1. Prove Karl Barth to be wrong in holding that “there is no wrath of God resting upon man as the consequence of his disobedience to the directly revealed will of God” (Van Til, Ibid. p. 159 ).

2. Show that it is not inconsistent with God’s being to manifest wrath as well as grace.

3. What incentive is there for mission work in this article, and what sense of urgency to go into all the world to do it?

4. What ammunition does the material in this lesson give you to show how wrong the archbishop of Canterbury is in believing that there may be some atheists in heaven.

5. Does the Roman Catholic Church agree with the teaching of Eph. 2:8–9 as given in their own Confraternity Version of the New Testament? In that version Eph. 2:8–9 reads thus: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, for it is the gift of God; not as the outcome of work, lest anyone may boast.”

6. What is wrong with the Arminian order of salvation in which they place faith before regeneration? Why do we place regeneration before faith?