Studies in the Canons of Dort

LESSON SIX Part I Art. 6. ELECTION IS A SOVEREIGN DECREE A. Two-fold activity of the sovereign decree

l. God’s grace softens the elect and inclines to faith.

It was God’s good pleasure to choose some human beings unto salvation. No man takes the initiative in seeking God, but God graciously seeks those whom he will according to his election of grace. He has mercy on whom he will have mercy and he has companion on whom he will have compassion (See Rom. 9:15).

“So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that hath mercy” (Rom. 9:16). He has decreed to save some human beings and to let others continue in their chosen unbelief. Only God can take the stony heart out of a man and give him a heart of flesh (Ezek. 11:19).

2. God’s judgment condemns the reprobate.

It is surely God’s own divine and sovereign prerogative to elect unto salvation; it is also his sovereign prerogative “to leave the non-elect…in their own wicked obduracy” (Article 6). Prof. Murray points out in his commentary on Romans 9:17–18, that the sovereignty of God is just as inviolate in hardening as it is in showing mercy (Ibid, Vol. I, p. 27). If God has mercy on whom he will and whom he will he hardeneth, the truth of reprobation can no more be denied than the truth of election. If all men are justly condemnable, then “sovereignty pure and simple is the only reason for the differentiation by which some are consigned to hardening while others equally undeserving are made the vessels of mercy” (Murray, Ibid, p. 30).

B. God exercises “righteous discrimination”

Today the word discrimination is most unwelcome. It is used to designate a main cause of social injustices. It may well be that many Christians resent such teachings as election and reprobation because they cannot justify any discriminatory choice in God’s part. “Are even some Calvinist inclined to apologize for a God who discriminates. Are we ashamed of this Biblical truth? “Is there unrighteousness in God? God forbid” (Rom. 9: 14). “The Lord is righteous in all his ways, and gracious in all his works” (Psalm 145:17). As the poetes over the clay, he has the right to make vessels of honor and of dishonor ( Rom. 9:22). “What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much long-suffering vessels of wrath fitted to destruction; and that he might make known the riches of his glory upon vessels of mercy, which he afore prepared unto glory (Rom. 9:22–23). To accuse God of injustice is to trample on his holiness.

C. Two-fold reaction to the sovereign decree

Men of “perverse, impure, and unstable minds wrest it to their own destruction.” They perverb the doctrine of election by saying, “If I’m elect, I’m elect. If I am not elect, I am not elect. There is nothing I can do about it. So what?” They continue in their unbelief where they choose to be. They wrest the doctrine of election and reprobation to their own destruction.

To the Christian “to holy and pious souls” this same teaching gives great comfort. They are most grateful for having been rescued from the condition in which they by nature desired to be. They desire great comfort from having been made new creatures by the mighty work of the Holy Spirit, with correspondingly new desires, desires glorifying to God.

Never think that the reprobate desires to be a Christian but can’t because rejected. “Him that cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out,” said Jesus (John 6:37b). “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28).

For Discussion

1. Many Christians adopt children. You may have done so yourself. Were you unfair, unjust to those whom you passed by because you adopted one? Why, then, is God unjust, some say, in adopting whom he will and passing by whom he will?

2. Since no one deserves mercy and God owes no one anything, why do men condemn God in showing mercy to whom he will?

3. What Bible passages would be untrue, if there were no election?

4. Mention Bible references that would be false and senseless if there were no reprobation.

5. Remember, we may not delete from the Bible or distort what we don’t want there, nor read into it what we want there to snit our finite way of thinking. We must accept by faith what God has revealed concerning himself whether we like it or not, understand it or not. Consider together the import of this warning.




In this article we find a rich definition of election. It covers the following facets of this amazing plan of God:

1. The character of God’s purpose in election. It is unchangeable. God’s purpose stands from eternity to eternity. “My counsel shall stand and I will do all my good pleasure.” lsaiah 46:10.

2. The time God elected. God elected from eternity. “…He chose us in him [am Lord Jesus Christ] before. the foundation of the world.” Ephesians 1:4.

3. The manner God elected. God chose his people out of mere grace. “What one receives out of mere grace, one neither earns nor deserves.” For by grace have ye been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boost.” Ephesians 2:8.

4. God’s motive in electing. God elected “according to the sovereign good pleasure of his own will.” Ephesians 1:15. God’s motive for electing is in himself, not in the likeability of those elected! God cannot love any being higher than himself. He is the absolute, supreme, self-existent God. Every other being is finite, subordinate, dependent. God loves himself supremely. God’s motive for choosing his own is the highest possible motive, because it has its origin in himself, the highest possible being with the highest possible ethical purpose. God loves his own for his own sake; therefore they have no right to claim redemptive worth in themselves as if they were better than others, and therefore they have no right to accuse God of injustice for not saving all. If God’s reason for saving you would lie in you, you could say, “I’m no better than others; therefore God should save them too.” Or you could say, “I’m as good as others; therefore God had to save me too.”

5. Object of election. God chose “from the whole human race…a certain number of persons to redemption in Christ.” See Ephesians 1:3–14.

6. The means of redeeming the elect. God appointed Christ to be the head and mediator of all the elect. This article 7 clearly states what God decreed the Christ to do for the elect. He saves them, effectually calls them, draws them into communion with him by his Word and Spirit, and bestows on them true faith, justification, and sanctification. I Corinthians 1:30.

7. The purpose of election. Why does God do all this through his Son? The ultimate purpose is “to glorify them for the demonstration of his mercy, and for the praise of the riches of his glorious grace.” Romans 8:30.


As mentioned in errors 2 and 5 of Part I of the Canons, there are those who teach more than one kind of election. They speak of a “general and indefinite election” and of a “particular and definite election.” The particular and definite election is either “incomplete, revocable, non-decisive. and conditional, or complete, irrevocably, decisive, and absolute.” Our election can be unto faith without being unto salvation. These concepts make election conditional. “…he who is chosen is more worthy than he who is not chosen” (Error 5). Mind you, one can be justified without being ultimately glorified! As Rev. J. C. Feenstra comments, “The Remonstrants make all kinds of subtle distinctions to be able in the matter of election to lay the decision in the hands of men.”

The Bible teaches no such view. God’s decree is one and all-inclusive. 1t is God’s plan and purpose with respect to all things (Berkhof. Summary of Doctrine, p. 46, Eerdmans). Human responsibility does not stand outside of, but is part of God’s decree. God decreed that man is responsible for his choices. He made it so, that it must be so. We operate in one sphere, however, the sphere of God’s decree.

God chose his own from eternity. He chose them “both to grace and to glory, to salvation and the way of salvation which he has ordained that we should walk in them.”


1. Establish the truth of the doctrine of election by social Scriptural references.

2. Try to memorize the definition of election as given in Article 7. If you will remember that the definition mentions in order the character of election, the time, the manner, the object, the means, and the purpose, you may find the definition manageable.

3. Prove human responsibility from the Bible.

4. What would you say to the person who says that he doesn’t want a God who elects some and rejects others?


The Arminian reduces the doctrine of election to mere foreknowledge, choosing faith and obedience, or some other quality, as condition of election. Because sinful man’s faith and obedience arc always imperfect, the Arminians hold that God stooped to accept imperfect faith and imperfect obedience as conditions of salvation. So, then, they believe God finds reasons in a man for electing him, yes, God is willing even to make something imperfect the condition of election. Thus God finds the real reason for election in the object he elect.

How contrary this is to Scripture! See Ephesians 2:8–9. It is by grace one is saved, through faith, not because of faith or obedience. It is not this way that one has faith; therefore God chose him. No, it is this way that God chose; therefore he gives faith. Election is the cause of faith, not the effect of faith. The Rev. J.G. Feenstra puts it this way, “God chose us not because we are better, but that he might make us better.”

Election is unconditional. See Romans 9:13, 15, 16. To him must needs be all the glory!


In the unfathomable depths of God’s good pleasure lies the cause of election! How wonderful! What grace! What glorious grace! In his holy good pleasure! (Eph. 1:5) How could anyone even think that a holy God would be satisfied with an imperfect faith or with imperfect obedience as a condition for election? “It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that hath mercy” (Rom. 9:16). So it will ever be. It is not this way that as many as believe are ordained, but, rather, as many as “were ordained to eternal life believed” (Acts 13:48b).


1. Why cannot faith come before regeneration as the Arminians believe?

2. What is the ground of election?

3. Prove that the doctrine of election does not make void human responsibility. Cf. Acts 13:46, Acts 13:48.