Studies in the Canons of Dort



Art. 1. Divine justice requires either:  a. Punishment of sin, or b. Satisfaction for sin

Art. 2. Infinite mercy provides the divine way of satisfying divine justice.

Art. 3. Death of the divine Son is the perfect sacrifice and satisfaction for sin.

Art. 4. Death of the divine Son is infinite in value and dignity.

Art. 5. Eternal life is the fruit of faith in the vicarious death of the divine Son.

Art. 6. Cause of unbelief lies in the subject, not in the objective sacrifice of Christ.

Art. 7. Cause of belief is in the objective grace of God, not in the subjective merit of man.

Art. 8. Divine will limits the atonement to the elect.

Art. 9. The purpose of election is progressively accomplished.

Note. These articles are followed by a statement of seven errors, each of which is refuted by the Synod of Dordt.




ART. 1. DIVINE JUSTICE REQUIRES EITHER:  a. Punishment of sin, or b. Satisfaction for sin.

God is infinitely all that he is. His love, mercy, goodness, justice, truth, knowledge, wisdom, etc., are all infinite. “God is not only supremely merciful, but also supremely just.” Since God is superlatively just as well as merciful, his mercy can never break through to save man unless his justice has been satis6ed. J. G. Feenstra rightly remarks that we may differentiate between mercy and justice. but we never may separate them (Ibid. p. 83). God does not violate anyone of his divine attributes to satisfy another divine attribute.

God warned Adam in Paradise that punishment would follow sin. “The wages of sin is death.” Adam knew this because God told him. And yet, knowing this, Adam consciously committed sin in disobeying

God. Adam consciously took issue with his Maker, choosing to disobey rather than obey. God’s supreme justice requires that such sinning against the “infinite Majesty, should be punished, not only with temporal but also with eternal punishment, both in body and soul.” The wages of sin against the eternal God is death. These wages must be paid because God cannot deny himself and therefore cannot deny his own demands.

Is there no escaping such punishment? No, unless God’s justice can be satisfied.


Is there no way out? Is there no escape? How meaningful the conjunction “but” can be. Listen! “The wages of sin is death.” Let this sink in. If no more may be said, we are all lost, eternally lost. “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Therefore the curse of God, the wrath of God abides on us. Listen again! “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Punishment or satisfaction. “Satisfaction” means “to do enough.” Is there someone who can do enough for us to remove the awful curse, the divine wrath resting upon us sinners? Is there someone who can and will become sin for us that we may become the righteousness of God through him? Is there someone who can and will meet all the demands of the covenant of works so that we can share in the covenant of grace? Is there someone who can fully obey the law for us as if we ourselves had obeyed it?

Praise God there is someone who already did enough to remove the punishment for sin. God himself, whose curse rested upon us, provided the Saviour upon Whom he laid our curse so that he could bear it away (Gal. 3:13). “Him who knew no sin He made to be sin for us; that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” ( II Cor. 5:21). No wonder Paul exclaimed, “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God; how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!”

Think of it! On the behalf of his elect, God heaped all the demands of his justice upon his own dear Son that the Father might heap his mercy upon his children.

The supremely just God heaped his just wrath upon the supremely righteous Saviour, in order that God’s supreme love for his own might be revealed in his supremely glorious redeeming grace. Did e’er such love and justice meet? Unless we see all this in the curse of Jesus Christ, we haven’t begun to appreciate the meaning of the Cross.

For Discussion

1. Why can’t God overlook sin?

2. How does the cross of Christ reveal the wrath of God? (Gal. 3:13)

3. How does the cross of Christ reveal the love of God? (I John 4:10)

4. What does it mean that Jesus Christ became sin for us? (II Cor. 5:21)

5. What is wrong with a program of evangelism which stresses the love of God without explaining what it means that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself? See II Corinthians 5:19 and Romans 5:10.



The Only Sacrifice

“Only Jesus Saves!” “There is none other name under heaven, that is given among men, wherein we must be saved.” Salvation is in none other. The only Savior gave his life a ransom for many (Matt. 20:28). Only the sacrifice of Jesus suffices. He is “the Way.” There is none other. “No man cometh to the Father but by me.” This is the Savior’s exclusive claim (John 14:6).

The Perfect Sacrifice

Jesus was the Lamb without blemish. Without blemish, yes, without blemish—such all the O.T. animal sacrifices had to be, properly to typify the one perfect sacrifice to come, even the Lamb of God. One flaw, one blemish would have disqualified the Lamb of God. He knew no sin; he was blameless. “Him who knew no sin, he made to be sin on our behalf; that we might become the righteousness of God in him” (II Cor. 5:21). Only a perfect man could have made possible our becoming the righteousness of God in him.

The Perfect Satisfaction for Sin

Jesus did enough to make complete payment. Yes,

“Jesus paid it all,

All to him l owe.

Sin hath left a crimson stain,

He washed it white as snow.”

The modernist looks to himself to make satisfaction.

Denying vicarious atonement, he thinks in terms of satisfying God by pulling himself up by his own boot-straps. The modernist does not see Jesus hanging on the Cross as his substitute. “Upon the Christian doctrine of the Cross, modern liberals are never weary of pouring out the vials of their hatred and their scorn….They speak with disgust of those who believe ‘that the blood of our Lord, shed in a substitutionary death, placates an alienated Deity and makes possible welcome for the returning sinner’” (Christianity and Liberalism, J. G. Machen, pp. 119–120).

The Roman Catholic also denies the sufficiency of the sacrifice of Christ. Listen to this: “Eternal Father, we offer Thee the blood, the passion, and the death of Jesus Christ, the sorrows of Mary most holy and of Sf. Joseph, in satisfaction for our sins, in aid of the holy souls in purgatory, for the needs of the holy Mother Church, and for the conversion of sinners” (Quoted from the Calvary Guild, Chicago, IL).

Such views are contrary to the Scriptures which plainly teach that Jesus saves to the uttermost, having offered up a sacrifice once for all, when he offered up himself (Heb. 7:27).

No Limit

There is no limit to the worth and value of Christ’s death. It is “abundantly sufficient to expiate the sin of the whole world.” Concerning this J. G. Feenstra writes: “The wrath of God against the sin of the whole human race is an organic whole. To redeem one sinner, Christ had to bear the entire wrath. To redeem all sinners, Christ would have had to bear the entire wrath against the sin of the whole human race. To redeem only the elect Christ had to bear the entire wrath…To redeem one sinner Christ would not have had to suffer less, and to redeem all sinners, He would not have had to suffer more” (Ibid p. 90). Sufficient for all; efficacious for those whom God in His inscrutible wisdom and sovereign grace chose to redeem. “He hath mercy on whom He will” (Rom. 9:18a), and “what if God, willing to show His wrath, and to make His power known, endureth with much longsuffering vessels of wrath fitted unto destruction…? (Rom. 9:22).

An Illustration

“If…a group of ten slaves are for sale on the slave market, and the price is one thousand dollars for the group or for anyone of the group, and someone interested in slaves decides to buy five of them and to pass the others by, would you say that, because he had paid the fun price, he had bought them all? The price may be sufficient, but the intent is to buy five of them, to be served by them, and to pass by the others.” So wrote Isaac De Mey in Torch and Trumpet (Nov., 1963).


1. How did Jesus make satisfaction for sin?

2. Why did the sacrifice have to be perfect? What else did it have to be?

3. Does the fact that the death of Jesus has infinite worth and value, imply universal redemption?

4. Prove from the Bible that the death of Christ, though sufficient to expiate the sins of the whole world, applies only to the sins of the elect.

5. Why would a church that denies the vicarious atonement of Christ be a false church? Show that such a church denies the Christ of the Scriptures. Will such a church hear, “Come, ye blessed of my Father” or will they hear, “I know you not?”

6. What would your church do to the true Christ if it joined the World Council of Churches, which admits such as deny the vicarious atonement as well as those who deny the infallibility of the Bible, the Virgin Birth, the miracles, and the bodily resurrection of Christ?

7. What is the difference among the doctrinal statements of the World Council of Churches, of the National Association of Evangelicals, and of the National Council of Christian Churches? To how many of these could your church belong without violating its loyalty to the true Christ?

8. Is there such a thing as redemptive love as well as redeeming love? Can love be called redemptive, if it doesn’t actualIy redeem?

9. If Jesus died for his people, why must his people still die? Contemplate this interesting explanation made in a sermon by the Rev. C. Steenstra, “Death is the culmination of the chastisements God has ordained for our sanctification.”



The death of the Lord Jesus Christ was of infinite “value and dignity” because the divine Person, the Son of God, was of infinite “value and dignity.” Boettner writes, “…Christ, who was God incarnate, was not only of greater value than a man but was of greater value than the sum total of all men, and sufficient to redeem as many of the human race as God sees fit to call to Himself (The Atonement, p. 15, Eerdmans). Weigh another striking statement by Boettner: “In view of the fact that Christ is God, and therefore a Person of infinite value and dignity, we have no hesitation in saying that the crucifixion of Christ was not only the world’s worst crime, but that it was a worse than that which would have been committed if the entire human race had been crucified” (Ibid, p. 14). This may help us to get a richer concept of the staggering truth that the death of Jesus is indeed infinite in “value and dignity.”

It is this because the Jesus who is really man, completely holy man, is also “the only begotten Son of God, of the same eternal and infinite essence with the Father and the Holy Spirit.” All this was necessary for Jesus Christ to qualify as our Savior. This, to be sure, shows what God was willing to do to save us, but it seems to me, it highlights even more what it took to satisfy our holy, infinite, sovereign, and just God. It also highlights, doesn’t it?, what it took to enable God to shed abroad His redeeming love.

The Worst Crime – The Best Offering

The crucifixion of Christ was man’s worst crime; it was God’s greatest possible sacrifice. No sacrifice could be greater than that of God’s only begotten Son. who is of “the same eternal and infinite essence with the Father and the Holy Spirit.” What a difference there was between God’s act and man’s act~


Eternal life is promised to those who believe in Christ crucified. God promised that whosoever believeth in his only begotten Son should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16). God promised that there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1).

God’s Promise Obligates Him

Can we trust God to fulfill his promise? Promises are as meaningful as the reliability and integrity of the person who makes them. “God is not a man, that he should lie, Neither the son of man, that he should repent: Hath he said, and will he not do it? Or hath he spoken, and will he not make it good? (Num. 23:19). The promises are covenantal commitments to us whereby God, out of grace, obligates himself to us to fulfill them.

God’s Promise Obligates Us

There is a holy “ought” about publishing to all nations the promise of salvation as well as to command men everywhere “to repent and believe.” This is to be done without discrimination. The Gospel must be declared to rich and poor, to weak and strong, to young and old, to black and brown and red and yellow and white, to continentals and islanders. to professionals and non-professionals, to the learned and the ignorant. God is no respecter of persons. It must go to all to whom God sends when and where he sends.


1. How could the death of Christ be of infinite value and dignity?

2. What qualifications did Jesus Christ need to be our Savior?

3. What is the promise of the Gospel?

4. What is the command of the Gospel?

5. Whose responsibility is it to go and tell?

6. Show how the Arminian approach to the sinner assumes universal atonement.

7. Have I the right to say to an unbeliever, “Jesus died for you”? Does anyone of the apostles approach the unbelievers of his day that way?

8. What did the apostles say to the unbelievers?

9. Evaluate this statement of Boettner: “If Jesus died for all, then all must be saved.”