Missions of the Protestant Reformed Churches in America

Chapter 2 - A furious storm of protests and accusations.

The beginning of the year 1924 introduced a period of busy and troublesome days for the consistories of the First Christian Reformed Church of Kalamazoo, Mich., and of the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church of Grand Rapids.

            Days were impending in which their affirmative response to the question, whether they did not feel in their hearts that they were “lawfully called of God’s Church, and consequently, of God Himself” to their respective holy offices, would acquire a new meaning, and would be severely put to the test.

            They were days when excited and very impatient protestants would call upon them to consider highly important problems of a doctrinal and church-political nature, yet would allow them no time to deliberate calmly upon these questions.

            It was a time of long and many special sessions of the consistories, especially for the consistory of the Eastern Avenue Church.  And it was a period when it behooved them that were called to watch over the flock to look diligently, lest the roots of bitterness that were springing up at sundry spots in the flock of Christ’s Church and that wee being carefully cultivated by evil spirits of hatred and envy, would trouble the congregation and thereby many be defiled.

            Days they were when the most deliberate would occasionally be inclined hastily to take a step in the wrong direction; when the most self-possessed might well lose his mental equilibrium.

            An epoch of Sturm Und Drang!

            It was the nineteenth of January by the calendar and Saturday morning.

            Three men, members of the Eastern Avenue congregation, whose names, J. De Hoog, W. Hoeksema and H. Vander Vennen, are worthy to be preserved on the pages of this history because of the part they played in it, were calling on their pastor, the Reverend H. Hoeksema, and gathered with him in the parlor of the parsonage.

            They revealed that they had serious objections against the views and teachings of their pastor as expressed in his preaching and writings.

            However, he would be mistaken that would now draw the conclusion that they had come to visit their pastor in order to unburden their hearts, to discuss the matters that so heavily weighed upon their soul with him, or even to deliver a brotherly and Christian admonition.

            They hastened to state that they had committed their objections to writing and that the purpose of their present visit was merely to deliver a written protest; and they added, that they would like to be favored with a reply as soon as possible.

            When the pastor had received this protest and hastily perused it, he called the attention of the protestants to the fact that their document had been addressed by them, not to the pastor, but to the consistory of the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church, and that, for this reason, he could not very well proceed in the matter seeing it was not proper for him alone to decide in matters that pertain to the consistory.  This apparently insignificant detail is worthy of notice, because it shows how far it was from the minds of these protestants to discuss their objections with their pastor.  From the very outset they were so determined upon the way of a legal ecclesiastical procedure, that a protest, pretended to be for the pastor personally, was addressed to the consistory.

            However, when their attention was called to this formal error, they amended their mistake and soon afterwards offered the same protest now addressed to the pastor.

            The pastor then expressed his desire to discuss the contents of their protest with the protestants personally and individually.  One of them, J. De Hoog, complied with this request, but when in a private conference in which the pastor asked for light upon certain parts of the protest that were not very clear to him, this particular protestant proved to be incapable of elucidating his own protest and rather evinced that he was but poorly acquainted with its contents.  The other protestants refused to discuss the matter with their pastor, unless they would be permitted to do so together.  This the pastor refused, first because he maintained that each of the protestants certainly was individually responsible for his protest; and, secondly, because the pastor suspected from the start that none of the three protestants was the final author of the written document they had delivered, and, if at all possible, the author ought to be lured from his hiding-place and called to account.  Later, this suspicion proved to be well grounded.  None of the three protestants had composed the protest.  Much later, through a forced testimony in the worldly court, one of the protestants revealed that his brother, a neighboring pastor, the Reverend G. Hoeksema, was the writer of that first protest.

            The protestants, by this insistence of the pastor to discuss the matter of their protest with him individually and by their own aversion and refusal to do so, were compelled to change their ground of procedure, if they would carry out their original purpose of presenting their protest to the consistory.  They, therefore, alleged that they were under no obligation to discuss the matter  of their protest with their pastor according to the rule of Matthew 18.  For, they claimed, the matter really concerned a public sin on the part of the pastor, and as such they could lodge a complaint with the consistory against him directly.  And they now acted in accordance with this claim.  On the basis that the pastor had committed a public sin they lodged their protest with the consistory and demanded of that body that they should treat the pastor.

            This accusation on the part of the protestants of a public sin against the pastor of the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church was destined to become an important factor in the future development of this history.

            The consistory could not accept the ground on which the protestants claimed to possess the right to file their protest with that body, without a previous discussion with the accused pastor according to Matthew 18. They could not receive the protest because they could not admit the ground on which it was offered: the public sin of the pastor.  The protestants were begging the question.  They demanded of the consistory to assume what was still to be proven.  They gave the protestants to understand that, of course, they were well aware of the fact that the preaching and teaching of the pastor were public; that, however, this teaching and preaching constituted a sin, in other words, that the pastor was guilty of teaching a false doctrine, they could not admit.  As to themselves, they were convinced of the very opposite and had always given testimony to that effect.  The burden of proof, therefore, rested with the protestants.  The very thing they demanded of the consistory to assume beforehand they were obliged to prove in their protest, viz., that in his teaching and preaching the pastor committed a public sin.  The consistory, therefore, asked of the protestants that they retract their accusation of public sin against the pastor.  And when they refused to comply with this demand of the consistory, they were told that they would have to refrain from partaking of the Lord’s Supper, on the ground that with this accusation of public sin against the pastor in their hearts they could not very well partake of communion with him.

            The minutes of the consistory of the Eastern Avenue Church inform us that at their meeting of April 24, 1924, another protest was filed by the protestants mentioned above.  In this protest they reiterated in the most emphatic language their accusation of public sin against their pastor, referring even to Articles 79 and 80 of the Church Order; secondly, they demanded of the consistory that, while they maintained their accusation against the pastor, their censure should be lifted and they should be allowed to partake of communion; and, thirdly, they notified the consistory that, if their demands should be refused, they would appeal to the classis.  The consistory decided to abide by its former decision in this matter and the three protestants carried out their appeal to Classis Grand Rapids East, which convened on May 21.

            In the meantime the consistory had received another protest of a similar nature.

            This time the protestant was Reverend J. Vander Mey, minister without a charge and, therefore, no minister at all, financial secretary of the Theological School and member of the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church.

            The story of this protest is briefly as follows:

            On that morning of January 19, when the first three protestants visited their pastor and delivered their protest to him, they informed him that also Mr. J. Vander Mey had declared his intention of signing their protest. A few days later, however, Mr. Vander Mey, who at that time was in Chicago, Ill., wrote a latter to his pastor in which he informed him that he was not quite ready to affix his signature to the protest of the three brethren, but that he would prefer a personal conference with the pastor before he took any definite action.  In the same missive, however, he accused the pastor of a wrong conception of God, an erroneous view of Holy Scripture and a mistaken view of life in this world.  After Mr. Vander Mey had returned from Chicago, however, he appeared to be in no particular hurry to make arrangements for the personal conversation he had proposed in his letter, and the conference was not held til the beginning of April.  In this interview the pastor reminded Mr. Vander Mey of the threefold indictment he made against him in the letter referred to above, and demanded that he should prove the accusation or retract.  In the course of the conversation it became plainly evident, to the satisfaction of the accused and the accuser, that the latter was not able to sustain his indictments; yet he refused to retract them.  The pastor then asked him, whether he still intended to sign the protest of the first three protestants, to which he replied in the negative.  Nor did he intimate that he entertained the slightest intention of preparing a separate protest.  The impression he left was rather that he felt quite incapable of defending his first accusation and of sustaining them in the light of the Word of God and the Reformed Confessions.

            Imagine, then, the surprise of the pastor, when at the following consistory meeting he was informed that Mr. Vander Mey had filed a protest against him!  The pastor informed the consistory of what had taken place between Mr. Vander Mey and himself and that the former had not delivered a copy to the pastor of his protest so that the latter was wholly ignorant of its contents.  the consistory informed the protestant that he would have to comply with the rule, which required of him to present a copy of his protest to the pastor before he could file it with the consistory.  Thereupon Mr. Vander Mey had his protest printed.  And though, when the consistory inquired into the matter, he at first insisted that he had kept the matter private and had not distributed copies of the printed protest, persistent questioning finally made him admit that, while he had five hundred copies printed, he had approximately four hundred of them still in his possession.  Let the reader judge whether the consistory was right when it judged that by his action Mr. Vander Mey had become guilty of making secret and false propaganda against his pastor and demanded of him that he should confess his sin.  He refused, however, to comply with the demand of the consistory and informed them that he also would file his protest with the classis at its meeting of May 21.

            The protest of Mr. Vander Mey contained five alleged objections against the views of the Reverend H. Hoeksema.

            The first objection concerned the pastor’s conception of God.  The protestant objected particularly to the pastor’s view that the grace of God is at all times particular, that is, that He is gracious to the elect only and not to the ungodly reprobate.  Though this is simply the plain teaching of Holy Writ and of the Reformed Confessions, Mr. Vander Mey did not hesitate to declare that he considered this a horrible doctrine, that he abhorred it and would always witness against it.  On his part he maintained the view that God loves and is gracious to all men without distinction, that is, in this world and with respect to the things pertaining to this present life.  It is noteworthy that he, too, refers to the “well-meant offer of salvation on the part of God to everybody,” as a proof of this general or common grace of God.  Secondly, the protestant objected to the pastor’s excessive emphasis on the doctrine of predestination and on the counsel of God in general.  In the preaching and teaching of the pastor, man’s responsibility is not sufficiently emphasized, according to Mr. Vander Mey’s protest, though he admits that he is not able to prove that the pastor denies man’s accountability.  Thirdly, the pastor was accused of maintaining and teaching a wrong world-and-life view.  The natural man is incapable of doing any good at all, and always sins.  The good of the world, as manifested in science and art, in philanthropy, social reform and in many other movements and deeds, is not properly appreciated by the pastor.  He denies that God restrains the process of sin in man and that by virtue of this restraint the natural man is able to do much good.  Mr. Vander Mey, on the other hand, insisted that, although the sinner is inclined to evil, he still is capable of performing many good works and actually accomplishes much good in this world, so that he even puts to shame the child of God.  The fourth objection alleged that the pastor fails to sound the true gospel note in his preaching.  The earnest invitation and well-meant offer of salvation to all are lacking.  Mr. Vander Mey was convinced that God offers salvation to all men promiscuously and that in this offer He reveals His sincere willingness to save all that hear.  Thus, we are able, he declared in his protest, to gain our neighbor for Christ; to win souls for Jesus is the work of men.  The fifth and last objection against the pastor was that he makes the second table of the law of none effect.  The pastor teaches that we must hate those that hate God, while Mr. Vander Mey denied this and defended the view that we must love all men without distinction.  According to the pastor’s view there is no room for fellowship with the world in the battle for truth and righteousness; while Mr. Vander Mey would defend the very opposite and maintain that the ungodly often stand on a higher level than the people of God.

            The entire protest is one strong plea for common grace over against particular grace, for the good works of the ungodly in opposition to the doctrine of total depravity; a plea, too, for appreciation of the good works of the ungodly and for fellowship with the world in opposition to the antithetical view of life and the separation of light and darkness.

            About this time still another protest was filed with both the consistories of the Eastern Avenue Church and of the First Christian Reformed Church of Kalamazoo, Mich.  The author of it was the Reverend Jan Karel Van Baalen of Munster, Ind.  And it was directed against the Reverends H. Danhof and H. Hoeksema combined.

            Like the protest by Mr. Vander Mey that of the Reverend Van Baalen mentioned five objections against the teachings of the two pastors. The first is that the accused pastors deny that God is gracious to the ungodly reprobate.  This the protestant considers the chief error of his opponents.  The second error is closely related to the first and consists in the fact that, according to the protestant, the two accused ministers co-ordinate election and reprobation.  Van Baalen's third objection concerns the denial of the restraint of sin through an influence of God's common grace.  Again, closely related to the third objection stands the fourth, against the denial by the two pastors that man is able to perform any good works.  And his final grievance is rather of a practical nature.  The indicted pastors accused many officebearers in the Christian Reformed Churches as well as of the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands of being unreformed in doctrine and worldly minded in life and walk.  Thus Reverend Jan Karel Van Baalen formulated his grievances.  And he earnestly requested the consistories to treat their pastors accordingly, and expressed the sincere hope that they might succeed to persuade them to recant and to turn them from their way of error!

        Acting upon a suggestion of the consistory of the First Christian Reformed Church of Kalamazoo, both the consistories concerned served the protestant with a combined answer, in which they offered him the opportunity on April 22, to discuss the matter of his protest with the two pastors involved; and in which they informed him, that, if after such an all-day discussion the protestant was not satisfied, opportunity would be given him in the evening of the same day to present is objections to the respective consistories.  The consistories were convinced, not only that this was the proper way of procedure, but also that through the means of such a personal conversation many if not all of the objections of the Reverend Van Baalen could be removed.

            Such a meeting with the two pastors face to face the protestant however, refused.  And he let the consistories know, that if they did not furnish him with a final and definite reply to this protest before or on April 30, he would be constrained to appeal to the classes.  The consistories, however, did not alter their decision and the Reverend Jan Karel Van Baalen carried out his appeal.

            In this connection mention must be made of the document that pretended to be an overture from the consistory of the Christian Reformed Church at Kellogsville and was composed by the Reverend M. M. Schans, not, however, without the cooperation of others, as he himself confessed.

            The Rev. M. M. Schans had never openly voiced objections against the views of his fellow-minister, the Reverend H. Hoeksema.  Never had he discussed any doctrinal questions with him personally.  Never had he, or any of his associates in the matter declared his intention of protesting against the views of the Rev. H. Hoeksema.  Nor had he had the decency of offering a copy of his protest to the pastor concerned.

            Yet it appeared before the consistory of the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church!

            And it was received and acted upon by Classis Grand Rapids East!

            It appeared in the form of a printed pamphlet.  On the first page one may read in heavy capital letters: "Overture from the consistory of the Christian Reformed Church of Kellogsville, Mich."  Fact is, however, that its contents never were adopted by the consistory of the church at Kellogsville.  The author of this history was informed later by the clerk of that consistory, that the Rev. M. M. Schans had, indeed, presented his protest or petition to his consistory and requested them to pass on it and send it through to Classis Grand Rapids East, but that by a majority vote the consistory had refused this request of their pastor.  This document, therefore, was not what it claimed to be, viz., an overture from the consistory of the church of Kellogsville.

            Nevertheless, copies of this pretended overture were distributed among all the consistories of Classis Grand Rapids East, in sufficient number  for each individual member of each consistory to receive one, some weeks before classis convened and even before the pastor concerned was aware of the fact that such a document against him had been composed and circulated!

            The pastor that was personally concerned in this "overture" first learned of the activities of the Reverend Schans against him, when he filled a classical appointment at East Martin, Mich.  In the home of one of the consistory of that church, with whom the Reverend H. Hoeksema took dinner that day, he found a copy of this document.  When he expressed his amazement at this discovery to the elder, the latter was in turn surprised that the Reverend H. Hoeksema was ignorant of this matter of the "overture" and informed him that it had already been circulated through the classis by the stated clerk, so that each member of all the consistories possessed a copy!

            The Reverend Schans, therefore, had really ignored and trampled under foot all rules of order, not to speak now of his brotherly obligations, by distributing copies of a protest among the members of the consistories belonging to Classis Grand Rapids East, before said protest had been formally received by the classis and declared legal by that body, and before he had even breathed of his purpose to the pastor involved.

            As to the contents of this document, it pretended to be a mere petition, although it certainly implied several accusations against the Pastors H. Danhof and H. Hoeksema.  It openly expressed serious doubt with respect to the orthodoxy of the two ministers, and it requested the classis to send an overture to synod, petitioning that body to examine the two pastors on several points of doctrine.  The first of these points of doctrine concerned the well-meaning offer of salvation in the preaching of the gospel.  It is rather striking that this objection appeared in all the protests that were filed.  And it reveals how widespread was the Arminian view that salvation is an offer on the part of God to all among the ministers of the Christian Reformed Churches at that time.  The views of the late Professor Heyns had struck root!  The second point on which the two pastors were to be questioned concerned the doctrine of election and reprobation.  the petitioner discovered an over-emphasis on these matters in the teachings of the suspected pastors.  Thirdly, the "overture" would have the two pastors examined on the question of the restraint of sin.  It is curious to note that, although the three forms of unity certainly do not speak of any restraint of the process and influence of sin, all the protests tacitly assume that this error is reformed truth!  Fourthly, the two ministers were suspected on the point of civic righteousness.  Fifthly the petition requested that the two pastors should be questioned on the score of the responsibility of man. And,, finally, the subject of God's all over-ruling providence was mentioned in the petition as a line along which the proposed examination might be conducted. 

            Further, to make quite sure that no remnant of heresy would be left in the two pastors, the "overture of Kellogsville" would have classis to petition synod, after the two suspects had passed a satisfactory examination , also to investigate the writings of the Reverends H. Danhof and H. Hoeksema, and if anything objectionable should be found in these writings to demand of their authors that they recant.

            It seems to us as we review these protests and their contents, that any unprejudiced reader must be strangely impressed with the fact that such protests could actually originate with men that pretended to defend the reformed truth!

            Or does it not sound unbelievable that in the name of reformed truth it is possible to protest as follows:

            1. Against particular grace in favor of common grace.

            2. Against efficacious grace in favor of a well-meaning offer.

            3. Against emphasis on predestination in favor of man’s responsibility.

            4. Against insistence on total depravity in favor of the good that sinners do?

            Yet, when one expresses the matter briefly and succinctly, shorn of all sophistries, the above were the chief features of all the protests that were filed with Classis Grand Rapids East, that convened on May 21, 1924.

            And if the matter of these protest had been hurried by the protestants in order to have it determined by the classis, from now on it required more haste still.

            For, the classis convened only a few weeks before the opening of synod!

Chapter 1 - In which the events of 1924 are properly introduced to the reader.

One who, in the latter part of the year of our Lord 1924, lived in the beautiful "Furniture City" that owes its name to the rapids of the Grand River on whose banks it is situated, might have witnessed a somewhat extraordinary excitement and commotion among the good people of Dutch descent that lived in the southeastern part of that otherwise quiet and peaceful town.

For three weeks in succession a considerable number of men and women would betake themselves daily to one of the church edifices located in that vicinity. At first the Neland Avenue Christian Reformed Church was the center of their interest; later it was to the Oakdale Christian Reformed Church that the excited people would flock.

Among them might be seen gray-haired men and women that had evidently passed the age of the strong as well as young people still in their teens. There were men whose attire plainly witnessed to the fact that they had just abandoned their jobs and places of business, and women that had rushed though their early morning housework, in order to be able to attend the meetings that were held in one or the other of the aforementioned church-buildings. Men and women, old and young, appeared to be deeply interested in whatever was transacted in those meetings.

Some sauntered along, alone and apparently lost in thought, their features expressing concern and determination; others hurried along in companies, engaged in animated conversation upon subjects of a doctrinal or church-political nature, although it could hardly be said that their discussions were confined to abstract theological and ecclesiastical problems. Their personal interest in the subjects of their deliberations was, no doubt, deepened by the fact that living persons, well-known to them, were involved. Perhaps, it might even be truthfully stated that these common folk did not always distinguish between doctrines and persons. Nor were the remarks that were made always intended to be preserved on the page of history.

Similar scenes might have been witnessed not many weeks later, this time with their center of interest in the La Grave Avenue Christian Reformed Church, located in the heart of the aforementioned Furniture City.

What was the cause of all this excitement?

The occasion was the gathering of Classis Grand Rapids East and of Classis Grand Rapids West, the former commencing its sessions in the Neland Avenue Church and bringing them to a close in the Oakdale Church, the latter meeting in the Church at La Grave Avenue.

The doctrinal point of interest was the question of common grace that had, in July of the same year of our Lord, 1924, received an official formulation and adoption by the Synod of Kalamazoo.

From a church-political viewpoint the discussions concentrated around the abstract question whether a classis had the authority to depose ministers and consistories; and around the very concrete question whether, in the particular cases upon which the two classes then deliberated, they would have the courage to assume and exercise such authority.

And the personal interest concentrated around the names of Pastors H. Danhof, H. Hoeksema and G.M. Ophoff and those of their respective consistories.

The first of these pastors at that time served the First Christian Reformed Church of Kalamazoo, Michigan; the second was minister of the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church of Grand Rapids, Mich.; the third ministered unto the flock of the Christian Reformed Church at Riverbend, Mich., known as the Hope Christian Reformed Church.

The two classes considered it their duty to bring the three pastors and their consistories into subjection under the ecclesiastical yoke that had been manufactured by the Synod of Kalamazoo, i.e., to elicit from them a promise of fidelity to the three doctrinal statements regarding common grace that had been adopted by that synod; or, in case these ministers and consistories should appear to be stubbornly recalcitrant, to impose the proper penalties and apply the necessary discipline.

The overwhelming majority of the membership of the churches served by the three pastors stood with them and were prepared to maintain this stand whatever the two classes might decide.

And this explains the extraordinary commotion in the otherwise tranquil city of Grand Rapids, during the months of November and December 1924 and January 1925.

The immediate result of the deliberations of these two Grand Rapids classes was that the three pastors with their consistories were deposed from office.

These pastors and consistories, however, refused to acknowledge the justice of this deposition as well as the authority of the classes to decree and execute such deposition. They refused to submit and remained in office.

The ultimate outcome of the classical decisions was that a new church-group originated, known as the Protestant Reformed Churches.

And it is with the origin and establishment of these churches that the history recorded in this book is concerned.

The history of the origin of the Protestant Reformed Churches is the history of a reformation.

And reformations do not spring up overnight. They are prepared. To understand them correctly you must assume the proper standpoint, from which you may view and judge them in their proper light, just as rightly to appreciate the beauty of a painting you must view it at a proper distance and in the right light. What is true of all history is applicable to the history of churches.

"In 't verleden ligt het heden

In het nu wat worden zal."

In order to understand the reformation that gave rise to the Protestant Reformed Churches, it is necessary that we are somewhat acquainted with the history and condition of the Christian Reformed Churches from which they were separated, and especially with those events that led up to that secession.

Let us, then, go back as far as about the year 1918, the year when, not without a struggle, the error of premillennialism was officially condemned by the synod of the Christian Reformed Churches.

Even before this time, it must be recorded, the Christian Reformed Churches had never been wholly purged from the leaven of Pelagianism and Arminianism. The churches were, indeed, officially Reformed, united on the basis of the Three Forms of Unity as their standards, but the actual condition was by no means in full accord with this official stand. The error of two irreconcilable wills of God, according to which, on the one hand, God willed that all men should be saved, while, on the other hand, He had predestinated His own from before the foundation of the world and reprobated the others, had found a ready acceptance in the churches. So deeply had the error, that the gospel of salvation is a well-meaning offer of grace on the part of God to all men, struck root, and so generally was it accepted as Reformed truth, that it had become the general tenor of preaching and instruction, that it was openly and officially taught in the Theological School of the Christian Reformed Churches, and that denial of this evident error was considered a dangerously extreme or one-sided view, if not a downright heresy. Indeed, we do not misrepresent the matter when we state that a strong Arminian tendency had always existed and strongly asserted itself under the pretense of being Reformed and with the claim of being sustained by the Reformed Confessions.

Nor is this all that must be said.

About the time of which we are writing, other evils developed. There was a gradually growing spirit of confessional indifferentism, largely caused by ignorance of the Reformed truth and not infrequently manifesting itself in open disdain of and antagonism against the Reformed principles; and as might be expected, there developed a pronounced tendency toward a falsely conceived "broad-mindedness" together with the manifestation of a spirit of worldly-mindedness, that would hide behind the name of "Calvinism" as a shield. Especially during the years of the World War, of which several of the leaders of the Christian Reformed Churches were enthusiastic supporters, with its spread of much false and pernicious propaganda, its confusion of the truth with purely humanistic philosophy, its hastening of the inevitable process of Americanization of the churches, long, perhaps, too long restrained, these evil tendencies received a new impetus and asserted themselves with a new confidence and emphasis. There began to appear what may be called a latitudinarian party in the churches, a group of men that assumed a certain leadership, who opposed the antithesis, stood for a "broader" view of the Christian's life and calling in the world, and strove to abridge the gap between the world and the Church. These men were wont to speak of the urgent need of a "restatement" of the truth; they lauded the movement of the jongeren in the Netherlands, who clamored for something new though they knew not what; and they frequently appealed to the alleged development of a "new mentality," that required new methods of approach, new forms and new truths. This 'broad-minded" party, it must be recorded, did not appear to have any sympathy with the views of Doctor Abraham Kuyper Sr., until they discovered that his theory of Common Grace offered them a philosophy that would support their latitudinarian views in the name of Calvinism. The antithetical conception of Kuyper they fairly disdained. Common grace became the warp and the woof of their life-view. "Calvinism" and "Common Grace" became synonyms. Only they that believed and emphasized the theory of common grace were the true Calvinists. And all that opposed them and refused to believe and proclaim this theory of common grace, they proudly and disdainfully branded as Anabaptists! By a dexterous hocus-pocus, Calvinism, always known the world over for its doctrine of predestination and particular grace, had been changed overnight into a philosophy of common grace!

Those who made this discovery and propagated this conception of Calvinism were, generally speaking, the men of Religion and Culture, which was the name of a magazine they published and in which propaganda was made for the "broader" views.

There were those, indeed, that were alarmed at the spread of these synthesizing ideas and sought to oppose their being disseminated. Men like Professors L. Berkhof, S. Volbeda and K. Schoolland and the Reverends Y.P. De John, H.J. Kuiper, H. Danhof and H. Hoeksema, frequently discussed the lamentable condition of the churches in general and the rise of this new movement in particular, and for a time they even held their monthly meetings for this purpose. They all agreed that an attempt must be made to save the church from the inroads of Arminianism and from the grave danger of being swallowed up into the world.

Under such circumstances arose the famous Janssen controversy.

In 1914 Doctor R. Janssen, a man of wide erudition and an able scholar, had been appointed to the chair of Old Testament Exegetical Theology at the Theological School of the Christian Reformed Churches. Before many years elapsed he was suspected by his colleagues in the seminary of modernistic tendencies in his teaching. His case became a matter of official investigation and, at the same time, of public interest, when, in the spring of 1919, the colleagues of Doctor Janssen, the Professors L. Berkhof, W. Heyns, F.M. Ten Hoor and S. Volbeda, presented a combined request to the Board of Trustees, urging the necessity of inquiring into the nature and tendency of Doctor Janssen's instruction. They lodged no direct indictment or accusation against their fellow-professor, but simply presented a request for investigation. And as they brought no definite charges, the grounds for their request were rather vague and uncertain. Their request was based on mere rumors. Nor had they, previous to their presentation of this request, approached their suspected colleague on the matter. The decision of the Board of Trustees in this case was to the effect, that they condemned the action of the four fellow-professors of Doctor Janssen as unethical, because they acted without first seeing their colleague; and, further, that for this reason they would not enter into the matter of the request. The four petitioners, however, were not satisfied and could not abide by this decision of the Curatorium. They appealed to synod. That body, which convened in June 1920 in the auditorium of the Theological School, investigated the case. Ample opportunity was given to the four professors to present the grounds for their request, as well as to the suspected professor to explain and defend his instruction. The result was that the four colleagues of Doctor Janssen were utterly defeated and the latter was fully justified. Synod decided that it had not become evident that Doctor Janssen's instruction was in conflict with the Reformed faith. Once again, therefore, the four professors had lost their case against their fellow instructor in the seminary.

Still they were not satisfied.

Instead of abiding by the decision of the broadest ecclesiastical tribunal, they openly criticized its position and appealed to the people in the form of a pamphlet.

In the meantime, the Reverend H. Hoeksema had interested himself in the case. He had collected a considerable mass of material in the form of student-notes containing class-dictations of Doctor Janssen, for the purpose of investigating the case for himself. They study of these notes convinced him that the decision of synod, though it might be true as it was formulated, was based on a very imperfect investigation of the case. Being editor of the department "Our Doctrine" in The Banner, one of the official organs of the Christian Reformed Churches, he inserted a few articles in which he showed (1) that the conclusion reached by synod was a purely negative one: it merely declared that it had not become evident that Doctor Janssen's instruction was contrary to the Reformed faith; (2) he maintained that this negative character of its decision was due to improper and insufficient investigation of the case; (3) he sustained his position by quotations from the student notes. To these articles Doctor Janssen replied. However, instead of denying responsibility for the quotations made from his notes and defending his instruction, he chose to launch a counter-attack upon the supposedly erroneous views of his opponent regarding common grace. After Doctor Janssen had published several articles without ever coming to the point, the Publication Committee closed The Banner for further discussion of the matter.

Still another pamphlet was published in reply to a brochure by Doctor Janssen. The pamphlet was entitled: Waar het in de zaak Janssen om gaat (The point at issue in the Janssen case) and was signed by the four colleagues of Doctor Janssen and four ministers, including the Reverends H. Danhof and H. Hoeksema. about this time, too, a new magazine appeared bearing the name of the Witness. Its publication was occasioned chiefly by the Janssen controversy, although it aimed no less at exposing and opposing the views of the "broadminded" party in the Church, which, speaking generally, rose to the support of Doctor Janssen. The result was that in the spring of 1921 the matter was considered once more by the Curatorium of the Theological School. This time that body appointed an investigating committee, consisting of the Reverends J. Van Lonkhuyzen, D. Kromminga, H. Danhof, H.J. Kuiper, G. Hoeksema, H. Hoeksema and J. Manni. In the fall of the same year this committee held its meetings in the parlors of the Douglas Park Christian Reformed Church of Chicago, Ill. For ten days the committee held its sessions, labored through piles of student-notes (the only material the committee had in its possession since Doctor Janssen had refused to co-operate), and finally attempted to formulate a united opinion. This, however, proved to be impossible. Almost from the start the committee appeared to be divided into two opposing camps. Doctor Van Lonkhuyzen, and the Reverends D. Kromminga and G. Hoeksema were evidently inclined to defend the views of Doctor Janssen and to maintain the professor in his position at the school of the churches; while the rest of the committee became more and more convinced that the instruction of Professor Janssen could not be tolerated at a Reformed seminary. The conclusions of the committee, therefore, were presented to the Board of Trustees in the form of two printed reports, the Majority Report by the Reverends Manni, Danhof, H. Hoeksema and Kuiper, and the Minority Report by the Reverends Van Lonkhuyzen, G. Hoeksema and Kromminga. The final outcome of this controversy was that the conclusions of the Majority Report were virtually adopted and its advice was followed by the Synod of Orange City, Iowa, in the summer of 1922. Doctor Janssen’s views were condemned and he was relieved of his professorship at the Theological School.

And it was not until after the Janssen controversy had been definitely and finally settled that a veritable ecclesiastical storm broke loose over the heads of the Reverends H. Danhof and H. Hoeksema, that had played such an important part in the defeat of the liberal faction!

Even before this, especially wile the controversy about Doctor Janssen’s views was raging, a cloud like a man’s hand had appeared occasionally on the horizon, but not until Doctor Janssen had been deposed did the ecclesiastical sky assume a threatening aspect.

And it is in the light of these precursory events only that the history of the origin of the Protestant Reformed Churches can fully be understood.

We do not mean to suggest--let this be emphasized--that the history of the common grace controversy must be viewed solely in the light of the troubles about Doctor Janssen’s instruction; nor that the deposition of the Reverends H. Danhof, H. Hoeksema, and G.M. Ophoff was motivated only by the desire to avenge the deposed professor. The suggestion was sometimes made by some well-meaning brethren in the Christian Reformed Churches, that the separation of 1924 would never have taken place had there been no Janssen controversy, that the Synod of Kalamazoo can only be explained in the light of the Synod of Orange City, and that the Three Points were merely formulated as a means to an end. Such a view of the history of 1924 is not capable of explaining all. It fails to explain how the four professors, whose cause against Doctor Janssen the Reverends Danhof and Hoeksema so strongly supported that without their support the professors would have suffered defeat most probably, after 1922 turned against the two ministers and co-labored with their own enemies for their deposition. It does not account for the fact that, when after the Janssen controversy was closed, the Reverends Danhof and Hoeksema suggested that as editors of The Witness they would further develop their views in that magazine, the staff rather accepted their resignation. Nor does it explain how, after the two ministers had resigned from the staff of The Witness, the latter could be amalgamated with Religion and Culture, the publication of the "broad" party, an amalgamation which proved to be the death of both publications. And how could it possibly explain the fact of the Three Points, their adoption by the Synod of Kalamazoo and their subsequent defense by Professor L. Berkhof, who is also supposed to be their chief author?

Besides, the fact must not be overlooked, that after 1922 the pro- and con-Janssen factions united, not only in their combined opposition against the Reverends H. Danhof and H. Hoeksema, but also in permanent peace and positive cooperation. Since Doctor Janssen was deposed there was no more controversy, in spite of the fact that all the supporters of the deposed professor remained within the fold of the Christian Reformed Church and some of them have been appointed to professorships at the Theological School.

Due allowance, therefore, may and must be made for the effect of the Janssen controversy upon the history of 1924 and the origin of the Protestant reformed Churches, but it is certainly a serious mistake to maintain that the former is the cause of the latter.

The Janssen controversy certainly served to accentuate existing differences in doctrinal views, differences that were quite fundamental and radical; it became the occasion of their being more sharply defined and definitely expressed than before. it also became the occasion of a faster development of the conflict, and it ultimately forced the issue and led to a premature conclusion of the common grace controversy. There is no denial of the fact that personal elements, motives of hatred and envy, of jealousy and malice, the desire to avenge the blood of Doctor Janssen played an important part in the action against the Reverends H. Danhof, H. Hoeksema and G.M. Ophoff. Doctrinally the Christian Reformed Churches were not at all prepared in 1924 to settle the question of common grace, witness the synodical confusion that gave birth to the Three Points. Eliminate the Janssen controversy and you are at a loss to explain why the separation of 1924 occurred at that early date. The reformation that gave rise to the Protestant Reformed Churches would have had a later date and a different setting.

But when due allowance is made for the influence of the Janssen controversy upon the history of 1924, the fact remains that the former cannot be regarded as the cause of the latter.

In the light of subsequent history it is a patent fact that the alignment of the pro- and con- faction in the Janssen case was not purely determined by its deepest underlying principle, but rather by secondary and superficial considerations of agreement and disagreement.

The fact that the four professors and others of the opponents of Doctor Janssen could unite with the pro-Janssen faction against the three ministers that were deposed in 1924-1925, plainly reveals that, apart from superficial differences, there was a fundamental agreement in principle. There was in the Janssen controversy an underlying principle which, had it not been violently and intentionally forced into the background, would have paralyzed every effort of the four professors to combat Doctor Janssen’s views and would have aligned them from the beginning with the pro-Janssen faction against the Reverends H. Danhof and H. Hoeksema.

This underlying principle is the theory of common grace!

On this fundamental principle all agreed, except the Reverends H. Danhof and H. Hoeksema!

It is deplorable that Doctor Janssen in his defense tried to prove that also the four professors and others of his leading opponents denied the theory of common grace. For, in the first place, this was untrue (except, perhaps, in the case of Doctor Volbeda). but in the second place, it would have been more fruitful for a proper discussion had he proceeded from the correct assumption that his opponents, except the Reverends H. Danhof and H. Hoeksema, do accept the theory of common grace, and that, therefore, they must also in deepest principle agree with him in regard to his views on revelation, inspiration, canonicity, the miracles and related subjects, even though, due to a lack of consistency on their part, they differed with him in ultimate conclusions.

In the light of subsequent history it was evidently a mistake on the part of the Reverends H. Danhof and H. Hoeksema, that they cooperated with the four professors in the Janssen controversy, rather than to oppose his views separately and from their own standpoint; that, for practical reasons, they allowed the deepest principles involved to be pushed into the background and the controversy to be confined to surface questions and differences.

And it was an error on the part of the four professors to oppose their colleague, with whom, as subsequent history plainly reveals, they agreed fundamentally. There is, in our opinion, no radical and principle difference between Doctor Janssen and Professor Berkhof. In as far as the latter’s teaching with respect to such fundamental questions as revelation, inspiration, the canonicity of the Scripture-books and the miracles is reformed and orthodox, it is not to be attributed to fundamental soundness of principle and method, but largely to an inconsistent drawing of sound conclusions from unsound principles!

This interpretation of history will explain all the facts. it will also answer the question, who the four professors and the entire anti-Janssen faction could, after 1922, unite to oust the chief opponents of Doctor Janssen.

And it will serve to shed the proper light upon the origin of the Protestant Reformed Churches, which is not to be viewed as a deplorable, accidental but unavoidable result of the Janssen controversy, but as a reformationof the churches, a return from the erroneous and dangerous path of common grace to the fundamentally Reformed line of the Synod of Dordrecht as drawn in the Three Forms of Unity.

Thus the storm clouds quickly lowered.

The friends of Doctor Janssen, realizing that their idol had been irrevocably cast down, and his foes, acting from the subconscious motive of fundamental agreement with the underlying principles of the instruction they had opposed, now combined their attacks upon the two ministers that had performed the lion’s share of the work in the Janssen controversy and borne the brunt of the battle.

The Reverend Jan Karel Van Baalen published a pamphlet entitled: Loochening Der Gemeene Gratie, Gereformeerd or Doopersch? (Denial of Common Grace, Reformed or Anabaptistic?), to which the two ministers replied with another pamphlet bearing the tile: Niet Doopersch Maar Gereformeerd (Not Anabaptistic but Reformed). Professor Berkhof wrote an article in The Witness under the deceiving heading: "Genade Voor De Onbekeerden" (Grace for the unconverted). The two ministers personally approached the professor with the direct question, whether he had thus written in ignorance or intentionally. and the professor promised to make amends, the attempt to do which made matters worse. Van Baalen followed up his first attack by the publication of Nieuwigheid en Dwaling (Innovation and Error), to which as well as to other attacks the accused pastors replied in the brochure: Lans Zuivere Banen (Along Straight Paths), which was very soon followed by still another pamphlet entitled Om Recht en Waarheid (For the Sake of Justice and Truth). They also had published their chief work of that period: Van Zonde en Genade (Of Sin and Grace).

And in the meantime formal protests had been filed against the two pastors and legal action had been started.

The battle that had apparently been won at the synod of 1922, for the salvation of the Christian Reformed Churches, was fundamentally and hopelessly to be lost for those churches at the Synod of Kalamazoo.

Foreword

1stPRCHistBookTitlePgTo speak at this early date of a history of the Protestant Reformed Churches might, perhaps, be considered presumptuous. Eleven years of existence and development would, it might appear to some, hardly yield sufficient material to write such a history, especially if it concerns a small and outwardly insignificant group of churches. Then, too, it would probably seem premature to write judiciously about the origin of these churches. A longer period must first elapse, it might be argued, before the events of 1924-25 can be perceived in their proper perspective.

Several considerations, however, may be urged in favor of a publication of this kind, even at this early date. The first and chief of these is that the rising generation in our Protestant Reformed Churches certainly must have an opportunity to acquaint themselves with the history of the churches of which they are members. It is especially with the practical purpose in view to offer them this opportunity that this history was written. Secondly, though it may be true that at a later date a better perspective might be obtainable of the events narrated, it is equally true that "distance lends enchantment to the view," and that under the spell of such enchantment the events of the past may appear somewhat distorted. In favor of this early publication is the fact that the events described are still fresh in the memory, not only of the author, but also of many that with him passed through the history of 1924-25. The latter may be summoned as witnesses that the facts of this history were not distorted in the narrative of them that is hereby offered to the public. And, thirdly, it is certainly desirable that the history of the Protestant Reformed Churches, especially as to their origin, be narrated by one of their own men, that was witness of the events here described. And I consider it no weakness but a point in favor of this narrative that it is told from the Protestant Reformed viewpoint.

In Part II of this book the reader will find a discussion of the doctrinal differences that, since 1924 exist between the Christian Reformed and the Protestant Reformed Churches.

May the Lord bless this effort and cause it to be effective unto the purpose for which it was written.

Rev. H. Hoeksema

Grand Rapids, Mich., 1936

 

Eleven years elapsed since the first edition of The Protestant Reformed Churches in America was offered to the public. If, at the time of its first edition, reasonable doubt might be raised whether such a history as this could be written, and the facts related in it could be viewed and evaluated in their proper perspective, this doubt has now been removed. Except for the fact that the injustice committed against those that were ejected from the fellowship of the Christian Reformed Churches in 1924 stands out in bolder relief at this later date, there was no reason to make any substantial alterations in this second edition. Hence except for some minor additions, this edition is quite like the first.

May it, under God's blessing, continue to instruct our own people, as well as others, in the history and specific doctrinal basis of the Protestant Reformed Churches, which should never be forgotten.

The Author

Grand Rapids, Mich., 1947

Study Guide

1st edition. Copyright © 1995. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reprinted in any form without permission from the publisher, except in the case of a brief quotation used in connection with a critical article or review. For information, address:

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Introduction 

This study guide is intended to be a companion volume to Saved by Grace - a Study of the Five Points of Calvinism. It can be used as a personal study guide by those who work through the material presented in the book on their own. It can also be used in a group Bible study. In this case, answers to the various questions in the study guide can be compared and discussed for the mutual profit of the members of the group. In either case, use of the study guide is intended to enrich understanding of and appreciation for the doctrines of grace, which are commonly referred to as the Five Points of Calvinism.

The purpose of the study guide is not only to reinforce the material presented in Saved by Grace. But the purpose is to go beyond what is written in the book by way of one's own further study and personal application of the Five Points of Calvinism. The study guide is also designed to be a tool for personal, spiritual growth so that these grand truths will not only be understood and confessed but lived. Then our sovereign God, Whose glory is held forth in these doctrines, will be praised.

Soli Deo Gloria!

The Authors

Chapter 1

The Sovereignty of God

Study Questions:

1. What does it mean that "the central truth proclaimed by Calvinism ... is the absolute sovereignty of God"? 

2. What do you understand by the sovereignty of God? 

3. What is meant when it is said that God is absolutely sovereign?

4. What is included in the sovereignty of God?

5. Does the sovereignty of God make God the author of sin? Explain.

6. Does the sovereignty of God rule out the responsibility of the sinner? Explain.

7. How does communism deny the truth of the sovereignty of God?

8. How does the teaching of evolution deny the truth of the sovereignty of God?

9. How does all Arminianism and free willism deny the sovereignty of God?

10. How is the sovereignty of God important for the right worship of God?

11. Explain how the glory of God is at stake in the truth of His sovereignty.

12. How does belief in the sovereignty of God affect one's view of history?

13. How does the comfort of God's people depend on the sovereignty of God?

14. How is the truth of the sovereignty of God related to the Five Points of Calvinism?

Scripture References:

1. Prove God's sovereignty in general.

2. Prove God's sovereignty over the brute creation. 

3. Prove God's sovereignty over His rational, moral creature, man.

4. Prove God's sovereignty in salvation.

5. Prove God's sovereignty over the evils (adversities) of earthly life.

6. Prove God's sovereignty over sin and the sinner. 

Questions for Reflection:

1. What difference does belief of God's sovereignty make in your life?

2. Recall a time in your life when God sovereignly brought trouble upon you that in the end proved to be for your good.

3. What relation is there between the sovereignty of God and prayer?

4. Can a person be saved who does not believe the sovereignty of God?

5. How does belief in the sovereignty of God differ from fatalism?

Memory Work:

1. Psalm 115:3But our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased.

2. Daniel 4:34, 35And at the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the most High, and I praised and honored him that liveth for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation: And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?

3. Matthew 10:29, 30Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 

4. Luke 22:22And truly the Son of man goeth, as it was determined: but woe unto that man by whom he is betrayed!

Chapter 2

Total Depravity

Study Questions:

1. What do you understand by man's depravity?

2. Why do we speak of man being totally depraved? 

3. What is "original sin"?

4. How does Pelagianism deny the truth of total depravity? 

5. How does Semi-Pelagianism deny the truth of total depravity?

6. How does Arminianism deny the truth of total depravity? 

7. How does the teaching of common grace deny the truth of total depravity?

8. How does the free offer of the gospel deny the truth of total depravity?

9. How does the notion that man has a free will contradict the truth of total depravity?

10. Is there any validity to the distinction between absolute depravity and total depravity?

11. What is the relation between total depravity and repentance?

12. What is the relation between total depravity and the preaching of the gospel?

13. Of what practical significance is the truth of total depravity for parents in the bringing up of their children? 

14. Explain what is meant by the "antithesis." 

15. How is the truth of total depravity related to the other of the Five Points of Calvinism?

Scripture References:

1. Prove the doctrine of total depravity.

2. Prove that all men are depraved.

3. Prove that man's depravity extends to his nature. 

4. Prove the inability of man to save himself.

5. Prove the truth of original sin.

Questions for Reflection:

1. If all men are totally depraved, why do not all men commit every sin?

2. Adam was the head and representative of us all, so that his sin became our sin. Can you think of examples in everyday life where this principle of headship holds true?

3. Does God still today punish sin with sin? Explain. 

4. What considerations might enter into a man's doing deeds that are only outwardly "good"?

5. React to the statement: "You can't legislate morality."

Memory Work:

1. Psalm 14:1-3The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good. The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.

2. Psalm 51:5Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.

3. Romans 8:7, 8Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.

4. Ephesians 2:1: And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins.

Chapter 3

Unconditional Election

Study Questions:

1. Why can predestination be called "the heart of the gospel"?

2. What is predestination? What is election?

3. What are the outstanding characteristics of election? 

4. What is meant by "double" predestination? What is reprobation?

5. Does the teaching of predestination contradict the truth that God is a God of love? Explain.

6. Does the teaching of predestination contradict the righteousness of God? Explain.

7. Does the teaching of predestination deny man's responsibility and lead to determinism? Explain.

8. How is the teaching of free will a denial of predestination? 

9. How is the teaching of common grace a denial of predestination?

10. How is the teaching of the free offer of the gospel a denial of predestination?

11. What connection is there between predestination and the antithesis?

12. How does the truth of predestination provide a motivation to the church in the preaching of the gospel?

13. How does the truth of predestination inspire humility in the believer?

14. How does the truth of predestination relate to the glory of God?

15. How is the truth of unconditional election related to the other of the Five Points of Calvinism?

Scripture References:

1. Prove the doctrine of election.

2. Prove that election is definite and personal. 

3. Prove that election is an eternal decree.

4. Prove that election is unto salvation.

5. Prove that election is gracious and unconditional. 

6. Prove that the basis for election is in Jesus Christ.

7. Prove the doctrine of reprobation.

Questions for Reflection:

1. Hypothetically, God could have chosen to save all men, or He could have chosen to save none. He did neither; He chose to save some. Why would this be His will, rather than one of the other alternatives?

2. How can a person be sure that he is an elect child of God?

3. Is it possible for an elect child of God to lose the assurance of his election? If so, how?

4. Is it possible for a reprobate person to be convinced mistakenly that he is an elect child of God?

5. Ought we to be concerned that the preaching of election and reprobation might frighten genuine believers and plant seeds of doubt in their minds?

Memory Work:

1. John 15:16: Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain; that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.

2. Romans 9:11-13: (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.

3. Ephesians 1:3-5: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.

4. Jude 4: For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.

Chapter 4

Limited Atonement

Study Questions:

1. What is meant by the atonement?

2. Why do we speak of the atonement as limited? 

 

3. Did Christ's death on the cross merely make salvation possible? Explain.

4. In light of the truth of limited atonement, explain I Timothy 2:4-6.

5. In light of the truth of limited atonement, explain John 3:16.

6. How does the teaching of universalism deny the truth of limited atonement?

7. How does the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church contradict the truth of limited atonement?

8. How does the teaching of Arminianism deny the truth of limited atonement?

9. What does modernism teach about the death of Christ? 

10. How does the teaching of the free offer of the gospel stand at odds with the truth of limited atonement?

11. How does the truth of limited atonement impact the preaching of the gospel?

12. How does the truth of limited atonement affect the church's mission work?

13. How does the truth of limited atonement relate to the assurance of salvation?

14. How is the glory of God at stake in the truth of limited atonement?

15. How is the truth of limited atonement related to the other of the Five Points of Calvinism?

Scripture References:

1. Prove limited atonement.

2. Prove that Christ laid down His life for certain particular persons.

3. Prove the efficacy of the death of Christ.

4. Prove that Christ's death was satisfaction of God's justice.

5. Quote a Bible text that speaks of Christ's death as:

a. Propitiation.

b. Reconciliation.

c. Redemption.

Questions for Reflection:

1. How does the justice of God relate to the truth of limited atonement?

2. What does it mean that Christ died for the "ungodly," Romans 5:6?

3. Why was it necessary that Christ's death should be by crucifixion?

4. Christ's death was vicarious or substitutionary. What does this mean? Of what importance is this truth?

5. What was the greatest suffering endured by Christ on the cross?

6. Sometimes the distinction is made between Christ's active obedience and His passive obedience. What is the distinction? What is your evaluation of this distinction?

Memory Work:

1. Isaiah 53:11He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many, for he shall bear their iniquities. 

2. Matthew 1:21: And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins.

3. John 10:11: I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.

4. Acts 20:28: Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.

Chapter 5

Irresistible Grace

Study Questions:

1. What does it mean that we are saved by grace? 

2. What is meant by irresistible grace?

3. Does irresistible grace imply that man is saved contrary to his will? Explain.

4. What is the fruit of God's grace in the sinner? 

5. Does the truth of irresistible grace preclude the use of means, particularly the means of the preaching of the gospel? Explain.

6. How can you explain those passages of Scripture (like Matthew 23:37 and Acts 7:51) which seem to teach that it is possible for the sinner to resist God's grace?

7. How is the teaching of free will a denial of irresistible grace?

8. How does the teaching of common grace lead to a denial of irresistible grace?

9. How is the teaching of the free offer of the gospel an implicit denial of irresistible grace?

10. What is the importance of maintaining that grace is irresistible as far as the truth that salvation is by grace alone is concerned?

11. What is the importance of the doctrine of irresistible grace in relation to the believer's assurance?

12. What impact has the doctrine of irresistible grace on the truth of conversion?

13. How is the truth of irresistible grace related to the other of the Five Points of Calvinism?

Scripture References:

1. Prove that salvation is by grace alone.

2. Prove that salvation is not on account of man's works.

3. Prove that even our repenting and believing are due to the grace of God.

4. Prove that the grace of salvation is irresistible. 

5. Quote a passage of Scripture that speaks of salvation as re-birth, re-creation, or resurrection. Explain how this passage proves irresistible grace.

Questions for Reflection:

1. What impact has the truth of irresistible grace on the Reformed view of the preaching of the gospel? Is the methodology of Reformed preaching different from the methodology employed in Arminian preaching because of the doctrine of irresistible grace?

2. Is it possible for a man to be brought to salvation by "natural light" apart from the grace of God?

3. What are the fruits of irresistible grace for which a Christian ought to look in his life and by which he may be assured that he is the object of God's grace? Are these fruits of grace present in your life?

4. Is it a matter of "grace" that a man outwardly conforms himself to the law of God? What considerations might enter in here?

5. Is the truth of irresistible grace experienced by the believer? Explain.

Memory Work:

1. Romans 8:29, 30For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. 

2. Romans 9:16: So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy. 

3. Ephesians 2:8-10: For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

4. John 3:3: Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

Chapter 6

The Perseverance of the Saints

Study Questions:

1. What is meant by the perseverance of the saints? 

2. Why do we speak of those whom God preserves as saints?

3. What is the relation between the perseverance of the saints and God's preservation of them?

4. Do the saints fall? Do the saints fall away? Explain. 

5. In light of the perseverance of the saints, explain Hebrews 6:4-6.

6. Does the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints lead to careless living? Explain.

7. How does Roman Catholicism deny the truth of the perseverance of the saints?

8. How does Arminianism deny the truth of the perseverance of the saints?

9. How does the teaching of free will contradict the truth of the perseverance of the saints?

10. How does Antinomianism deny the truth of the perseverance of the saints?

11. How does perfectionism overthrow the truth of the perseverance of the saints?

12. What is the relation between the perseverance of the saints and prayer?

13. What is the relation between the perseverance of the saints and the preaching of the gospel?

14. How does the believer's assurance rest on the truth of the perseverance of the saints?

15. How is the truth of the perseverance of the saints related to the other of the Five Points of Calvinism?

Scripture References:

1. Prove the truth of the perseverance of the saints. 

2. Prove that it is God Who preserves the saints. 

3. Prove that the saints' preservation is a preservation of them in holiness.

4. Prove that God always renews His people to repentance when they fall into sin.

5. Prove that it is by means of the Word of God and the preaching of the Word that we are preserved in salvation. 

6. Prove that it is by means of prayer that we are enabled to persevere to the end.

Questions for Reflection:

1. Is there such a thing as a "carnal Christian"? 

2. What means does God use to preserve us in salvation? Have you been diligent to make use of these means?

3. God preserves us not as so many individuals in isolation from each other, but as saints in relation to each other. Of what significance is membership in the church for the perseverance of the saints?

4. Will it be necessary for God to preserve us in salvation also in heaven? Explain.

5. Why is God pleased to make us perfect in the life to come, but not yet in this life?

Memory Work:

1. Psalm 37:23, 24: The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord; and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand.

2. John 10:27-29: My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand.

3. Philippians 1:6: Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.

4. I Peter 1:5: Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

Appendix

Citations from the Creeds

Since the doctrines covered by the Five Points are expressed in a very concise way in the creeds of the church, especially in the Reformed and Presbyterian creeds, it is helpful, in trying to understand the doctrine, to make reference to some of these statements. Most of the quotations given below are from the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession, and the Canons of Dordt, the three major creeds of those churches that have the name Reformed, and from the Westminster Creed and Catechisms, the confessions of those churches that have the name Presbyterian. Please note, too, that since the Canons of Dordt are the original Five Points of Calvinism, their statements concerning the Five Points are of special significance.

A. The Sovereignty of God

1. The Heidelberg Catechism.

a. Lord's Day IX, Question and Answer 26.

What believest thou when thou sayest, "I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth?"
That the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (who of nothing made heaven and earth, with all that is in them; who likewise upholds and governs the same by his eternal counsel and providence) is for the sake of Christ his Son, my God and my Father; on whom I rely so entirely, that I have no doubt, but he will provide me with all things necessary for soul and body; and further, that he will make whatever evils he sends upon me, in this valley of tears turn out to my advantage; for he is able to do it, being Almighty God, and willing, being a faithful Father.
Gen. 1 & 2; Ps. 33:6; 115:3; Matt. 10:29Heb. 1:3Jn. 5:17; 1:12, 16; Rom. 8:15, 16Gal. 4:5, 6Eph. 1:5I Jn. 3:1Ps. 55:22Matt. 6:26Rom. 8:28; 4:21; 10:12; Matt. 7:9-11.

b. Lord's Day X, Question and Answer 27, 28.

What dost thou mean by the providence of God?
The almighty and everywhere present power of God; whereby, as it were by his hand, he upholds and governs heaven, earth, and all creatures; so that herbs and grass, rain and drought, fruitful and barren years, meat and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, yea, and all things come, not by chance, but by his fatherly hand.
Acts 17:25-28Heb. 1:3Jer. 5:24Acts 14:17Jn. 9:3Prov. 22:2Job 1:21Matt. 10:29, 30Eph. 1:11.
What advantage is it to us to know that God has created, and by his providence doth still uphold all things?
That we may be patient in adversity; thankful in prosperity; and that in all things which may hereafter befall us, we place our firm trust in our faithful God and Father, that nothing shall separate us from his love; since all creatures are so in his hand, that without his will they cannot so much as move.
Rom. 5:3Ps. 39:10Deut. 8:10I Thess. 5:18Rom. 5:3-6; 8:38, 39; Job 1:12; 2:6; Matt. 8:31; Is. 10:15.
c. Lord's Day XIX, Question and Answer 50, 51.
Why is it added, "And sitteth at the right hand of God?"
Because Christ is ascended into heaven for this end, that he might appear as the head of his church, by whom the Father governs all things.
Eph. 1:20-22Col. 1:18Matt. 28:18Jn. 5:22.
What profit is this glory of Christ, our Head, unto us?
First, that by his Holy Spirit he pours out heavenly graces upon us his members; and then that by his power he defends and preserves us against all enemies.
Eph. 4:8Ps. 2:9Jn. 10:28.

d. Lord's Day LII, Question and Answer 128.

How dost thou conclude thy prayer?
"For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever"; that is, all these we ask of thee, because thou, being our King and Almighty, art willing and able to give us all good; and all this we pray for, that thereby not we, but thy holy Name, may be glorified for ever.
Matt. 6:13Rom. 10:12II Pet. 2:9Jn. 14:13Ps. 115:1; Phil. 4:20.

2. The Belgic Confession

a. Article XII. Of the Creation.

We believe that the Father, by the Word, that is, by his Son, hath created of nothing, the heaven, the earth, and all creatures, as it seemed good unto him, giving unto every creature its being, shape, form, and several offices to serve its Creator. That he doth also still uphold and govern them by His eternal providence, and infinite power, for the service of mankind, to the end that man may serve his God. 

b. Article XIII. Of Divine Providence.

We believe that the same God after he had created all things, did not forsake them, or give them up to fortune or chance, but that he rules and governs them according to his holy will, so that nothing happens in this world without his appointment: nevertheless, God neither is the author of, nor can be charged with, the sins which are committed. For his power and goodness are so great and incomprehensible, that he orders and executes his work in the most excellent and just manner, even then, when devils and wicked men act unjustly. And, as to what he doth surpassing human understanding, we will not curiously inquire into, farther than our capacity will admit of; but with humility and reverence adore the righteous judgments of God, which are hid from us, contenting ourselves that we are disciples of Christ, to learn only those things which he has revealed to us in his Word, without transgressing these limits. This doctrine affords us unspeakable consolation, since we are taught thereby that nothing can befall us by chance, but by the direction of our most heavenly Father; who watches over us with paternal care, keeping all creatures so under his power, that not a hair of our head (for they are all numbered), nor a sparrow, can fall to the ground, without the will of our Father, in whom we do entirely trust; being persuaded, that he so restrains our enemies, that without his will and permission they cannot hurt us. And therefore we reject that damnable error of the Epicureans, who say that God regards nothing, but leaves all things to chance. 

3. The Canons of Dordt.

a. I, 7.

Election is the unchangeable purpose of God, whereby, before the foundations of the world, he hath, out of mere grace, according to the sovereign good pleasure of his own will, chosen from the whole human race, which had fallen through their own fault, from their primitive state of rectitude, into sin and destruction, a certain number of persons to redemption in Christ, whom he from eternity appointed the Mediator and Head of the elect, and the foundation of salvation.
This elect number, though by nature neither better nor more deserving than others, but with them involved in one common misery, God hath decreed to give to Christ, to be saved by him, and effectually to call and draw them by his Word and Spirit, to bestow upon them true faith, justification and sanctification; and having powerfully preserved them in the fellowship of his Son, finally, to glorify them for the demonstration of his mercy, and for the praise of his glorious grace; as it is written: "According as he hath chosen us in him, before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love; having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved" (Eph. 1:4, 5, 6). And elsewhere: "Whom he did predestinate, them he also called, and whom he called, them he also justified, and whom he justified them he also glorified" (Rom. 8:30). 

b. I, 11.

And as God Himself is most wise, unchangeable, omniscient, and omnipotent, so the election made by him can neither be interrupted nor changed, recalled or annulled; neither can the elect be cast away, nor their number diminished.

c. I, 15.

What particularly tends to illustrate and recommend to us the eternal and unmerited grace of election, is the express testimony of sacred Scripture, that not all, but some only are elected, while others are passed by in the eternal decrees; whom God, out of his sovereign, most just, irreprehensible and unchangeable good pleasure, hath decreed to leave in the common misery into which they have willfully plunged themselves, and not to bestow upon them saving faith and the grace of conversion; but permitting them in his just judgment to follow their own ways, at last for the declaration of his justice, to condemn and perish them forever, not only on account of their unbelief, but also for all their other sins. And this is the decree of reprobation which by no means makes God the author of sin (the very thought of which is blasphemy), but declares him to be an awful, irreprehensible, and righteous judge and avenger thereof.

d. II, 8.

For this was the sovereign, and most gracious will and purpose of God the Father, that the quickening and saving efficacy of the most precious death of his Son should extend to all the elect, for bestowing upon them alone the gift of justifying faith, thereby to bring them infallibly to salvation: that is, it was the will of God, that Christ by the blood of the cross, whereby he confirmed the new covenant, should effectually redeem out of every people, tribe, nation, and language, all those, and those only, who were from eternity chosen to salvation, and given him by the Father; that he should confer upon them faith, which together with all the other saving gifts of the Holy Spirit, he purchased for them by his death; should purge them from all sin, both original and actual, whether committed before or after believing; and having faithfully preserved them even to the end, should at last bring them free from every spot and blemish to the enjoyment of glory in his own presence forever.

4. The Westminster Confession of Faith

a. Chapter II, Article 2.

God hath all life, glory, goodness, blessedness, in and of Himself; and is alone in and unto Himself all-sufficient, not standing in need of any creatures which He hath made, nor deriving any glory from them, but only manifesting His own glory in, by, unto, and upon them: He is the alone fountain of all being, of Whom, through Whom, and to Whom, are all things; and hath most sovereign dominion over them, to do by them, for them, and upon them, whatsoever Himself pleaseth.
Jn. 5:26Acts 7:2Ps. 119:68I Tim. 6:15Rom. 9:5Acts 17:24, 25Job 22:2, 3Rom. 11:36Rev. 4:11Dan. 4:25, 35Heb. 4:13Rom. 11:33, 34Ps. 147:5Acts 15:18Ezek. 11:5Ps. 145:17Rom. 7:12Rev. 5:12-14.

b. Chapter V, Article 1.

God, the great Creator of all things, doth uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things, from the greatest even to the least, by His most wise and holy providence, according to His infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of His own will, to the praise of the glory of His wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and mercy.
Heb. 1:3Dan. 4:34, 35Ps. 135:6Acts 17:25-28Job 38-41Matt. 10:29-31Prov. 15:3Ps. 104:24; 145:17; Acts 15:18Ps. 94:8-11Eph. 1:11Ps. 33:10, 11; Is. 43:14; Eph. 3:10Rom. 9:17Gen. 45:7; Ps. 145:7.

c. Chapter V, Article 4.

The almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, and infinite goodness of God so far manifest themselves in His providence that it extendeth itself even to the first fall, and all other sins of angels and men, and that not by a bare permission, but such as hath joined it with a most wise and powerful bounding, and otherwise ordering and governing of them, in a manifold dispensation, to His own holy ends; yet so, as the sinfulness thereof proceedeth only from the creature, and not from God, Who being most holy and righteous, neither is nor can be the author or approver of sin.
Rom. 11:32-34II Sam. 24:1I Chron. 21:1I Kings 22:22, 23; I Chron. 10:4, 13, 14II Sam. 16:10Acts 2:23; 4:27, 28; 14:16; Ps. 76:10II Kings 19:28Gen. 50:20; Is. 10:6, 7, 12; James 1:13, 14, 17I Jn. 2:16Ps. 50:21.

5. The Westminster Larger Catechism

Question and Answer 7.

What is God?
God is a Spirit, in and of Himself infinite in being, glory, blessedness, and perfection; all-sufficient, eternal, unchangeable, incomprehensible, every where present, almighty, knowing all things, most wise, most holy, most just, most merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth.
Jn. 4:24Ex. 3:14Job 11:7-9Acts 7:2I Tim. 6:15Matt. 5:48Gen. 17:1Ps. 90:2Mal. 3:6James 1:17I Kings 8:27Ps. 139:1-13Rev. 4:8Heb. 4:13Ps. 147:5Rom. 16:27; Is. 6:3; Rev. 15:44Deut. 32:4Ex. 34:6.

B. Total Depravity

1. The Heidelberg Catechism

a. Lord's Day II, Question and Answer 5.

Canst thou keep all these things (of the law) perfectly?
In no wise; for I am prone by nature to hate God and my neighbor.
Rom. 3:10I Jn. 1:8Rom. 8:7Tit. 3:3.

b. Lord's Day III, Question and Answers 7, 8.

Whence then proceeds this depravity of human nature?
From the fall and disobedience of our first parents, Adam and Eve, in Paradise; hence our nature is become so corrupt, that we are all conceived and born in sin.
Gen. 3:6Rom. 5:12, 18, 19Ps. 51:5Gen. 5:3.
Are we then so corrupt that we are wholly incapable of doing any good, and inclined to all wickedness?
Indeed we are; except we are regenerated by the Spirit of God.
Gen. 6:5Job 14:4; 15:14, 16; Jn. 3:5Eph. 2:5

c. Lord's Day XXI, Question and Answer 56.

What believest thou concerning "the forgiveness of sins"?
That God, for the sake of Christ's satisfaction, will no more remember my sins, neither my corrupt nature, against which I have to struggle all my life long; but will graciously impute to me the righteousness of Christ, that I may never be condemned before the tribunal of God.
Jer. 31:34Ps. 103:3, 4, 10, 11Rom. 8:1-3Jn. 3:18.

d. Lord's Day XXIII, Question and Answer 60.

How art thou righteous before God?
Only by a true faith in Jesus Christ; so that, though my conscience accuse me, that I have grossly transgressed all the commandments of God, and kept none of them, and am still inclined to all evil; notwithstanding, God, without any merit of mine, but only by mere grace, grants and imputes to me, the perfect satisfaction, righteousness and holiness of Christ; even so, as if I never had had, nor committed any sin: yea, as if I had fully accomplished all that obedience which Christ has accomplished for me; inasmuch as I embrace such benefit with a believing heart.
Rom. 3:9ff.; 7:23; 3:24; Tit. 3:5Eph. 2:8, 9

e. Lord's Day LI, Question and Answer 126.

Which is the fifth petition (of the Lord's Prayer)?
"And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors"; that is, be pleased for the sake of Christ's blood, not to impute to us poor sinners, our transgressions, nor that depravity which always cleaves to us; even as we feel this evidence of thy grace in us, that it is our firm resolution from the heart to forgive our neighbor.
Ps. 51:1I Jn. 2:1, 2.

2. The Belgic Confession

a. Article XIV. Of the Creation and Fall of man, and his Incapacity to perform what is truly good.

We believe that God created man out of the dust of the earth, and made and formed him after his own image and likeness, good, righteous, and holy, capable in all things to will, agreeably to the will of God. But being in honor, he understood it not, neither knew his excellency, but willfully subjected himself to sin, and consequently to death, and the curse, giving ear to the words of the devil. For the commandment of life, which he had received, he transgressed; and by sin separated himself from God, who was his whole life, having corrupted his whole nature; whereby he made himself liable to corporal and spiritual death. And being thus become wicked, perverse, and corrupt in all his ways, he hath lost all his excellent gifts, which he had received from God, and only retained a few remains thereof, which, however, are sufficient to leave man without excuse; for all the light which is in us is changed into darkness, as the Scriptures teach us, saying: The light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not: where St. John calleth men darkness. Therefore we reject all that is taught repugnant to this concerning the free will of man, since man is but a slave to sin; and hath nothing of himself, unless it is given from heaven. For who may presume to boast, that he of himself can do any good, since Christ saith, No man can come to me, except the Father, which hath sent me, draw him? Who will glory in his own will, who understands, that to be carnally minded is enmity against God? Who can speak of his knowledge, since the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God? In short, who dare suggest any thought, since he knows that we are not sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves, but that our sufficiency is of God? And therefore what the apostle saith ought justly to be held sure and firm, that God worketh in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure. For there is no will or understanding, conformable to the divine will and understanding, but what Christ hath wrought in man; which he teaches us when he saith, Without me ye can do nothing.

b. Article XVI. Of Original Sin.

We believe that, through the disobedience of Adam, original sin is extended to all mankind; which is a corruption of the whole nature, and an hereditary disease, wherewith infants themselves are infected even in their mother's womb, and which produceth in man all sorts of sin, being in him as the root thereof; and therefore is so vile and abominable in the sight of God, that it is sufficient to condemn all mankind. Nor is it by any means abolished or done away by baptism; since sin always issues forth from this woeful source, as water from a fountain; notwithstanding it is not imputed to the children of God unto condemnation, but by his grace and mercy is forgiven them. Not that they should rest securely in sin, but that a sense of this corruption should make believers often to sigh, desiring to be delivered from the body of this death. Wherefore we reject the error of the Pelagians, who assert that sin proceeds only from imitation.

The following two articles demonstrate the relationship between the doctrine of total depravity and the other four points, i.e., since men are totally depraved, salvation must be and is all of grace in all its parts.

c. Article XVI. Of Eternal Election.

We believe that all the posterity of Adam being thus fallen into perdition and ruin, himself such as he is; that is to say, merciful and just: Merciful, since he delivers and preserves from this perdition all, whom he, in his eternal and unchangeable counsel of mere goodness, hath elected in Christ Jesus our Lord, without any respect to their works: Just in leaving others in the fall and perdition wherein they have involved themselves.

d. Article XVII. Of the Recovery of Fallen Man.

We believe that our most gracious God, in his admirable wisdom and goodness, seeing that man had thus thrown himself into temporal and eternal death, and made himself wholly miserable, was pleased to seek and comfort him when he trembling fled from his presence, promising him that he would give his son, who should be made of a woman, to bruise the head of the serpent, and would make him happy.

3. The Canons of Dordt

a. I, 1.

As all men have sinned in Adam, lie under the curse, and are deserving of eternal death, God would have done no injustice by leaving them all to perish, and delivering them over to condemnation on account of sin, according to the words of the apostle, Rom. 3:19, "that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God." And verse 23: "for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God." And Rom. 6:23: "for the wages of sin is death."

b. I, Rejection of Errors, 4.

The true doctrine concerning Election and Rejection having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those who teach: That in the election unto faith this condition is beforehand demanded, viz., that man should use the light of nature aright, be pious, humble, meek, and fit for eternal life, as if on these things election were in any way dependent. For this savors of the teaching of Pelagius, and is opposed to the doctrine of the apostle, when he writes: "Among whom we also once lived in the lust of our flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest; but God being rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace have ye been saved), and raised us up with him, and made us to sit with him in heavenly places, in Christ Jesus: that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus: for by grace have ye been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, that no man should glory" (Eph. 2:3-9).

c. III, IV, 1.

Man was originally formed after the image of God. His understanding was adorned with a true and saving knowledge of his Creator, and of spiritual things; his heart and will were upright; all his affections pure; and the whole man was holy; but revolting from God by the instigation of the devil, and abusing the freedom of his own will, he forfeited these excellent gifts; and on the contrary entailed on himself blindness of mind, horrible darkness, vanity and perverseness of judgment, became wicked, rebellious, and obdurate in heart and will, and impure in his affections.

d. III, IV, 2.

Man after the fall begat children in his own likeness. A corrupt stock produced a corrupt offspring. Hence all the posterity of Adam, Christ only excepted, have derived corruption from their original parent, not by imitation, as the Pelagians of old asserted, but by the propagation of a vicious nature.

e. III, IV, 3.

Therefore all men are conceived in sin, and by nature children of wrath, incapable of saving good, prone to all evil, dead in sin, and in bondage thereto, and without the regenerating grace of the Holy Spirit, they are neither able nor willing to return to God, to reform the depravity of their nature, nor to dispose themselves to reformation.

f. III, IV, 4.

There remain, however, in man since the fall, the glimmerings of natural light, whereby he retains some knowledge of God, and of natural things, and of the difference between good and evil, and discovers some regard for virtue, good order in society, and for maintaining an orderly external deportment. But so far is this light of nature from being sufficient to bring him to a saving knowledge of God, and to true conversion, that he is incapable of using it aright even in things natural and civil. Nay further, this light, such as it is, man in various ways renders wholly polluted, and holds it in unrighteousness, by doing which he becomes inexcusable before God.

It should be noted here that each section of the Canons is divided into two parts, a positive section in which each doctrine is explained and a negative section in which various errors are condemned and rejected. These sections are valuable not only because they help in sharply and clearly defining the truths under discussion but also because they contain many proof texts for these truths.

g. III, IV, Rejection of Errors, 1.

The true doctrine having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those who teach: That it cannot properly be said, that original sin in itself suffices to condemn the whole human race, or to deserve temporal and eternal punishment. For these contradict the Apostle, who declares: "Therefore as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death passed unto all men, for that all sinned" (Rom. 5:12). And: "The judgment came of one unto condemnation" (Rom. 5:16). And: "The wages of sin is death" (Rom. 6:23).

h. III, IV, Rejection of Errors, 2.

The true doctrine having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those who teach: That the spiritual gifts, or the good qualities and virtues, such as: goodness, holiness, righteousness, could not belong to the will of man when he was first created, and that these, therefore, could not have been separated therefrom in the fall. For such is contrary to the description of the image of God, which the Apostle gives in Ephesians 4:24, where he declares that it consists in righteousness and holiness, which undoubtedly belong to the will.

i. III, IV, Rejection of Errors, 3.

The true doctrine having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those who teach: That in spiritual death the spiritual gifts are not separate from the will of man, since the will in itself has never been corrupted, but only hindered through the darkness of the understanding and the irregularity of the affections; and that, these hindrances having been removed, the will can then bring into operation its native powers, that is, that the will of itself is able to will and to choose, or not to will and not to choose, all manner of good which may be presented to it. This is an innovation and an error, and tends to elevate the powers of the free will, contrary to the declaration of the Prophet: "The heart is deceitful above all things, and it is exceedingly corrupt" (Jer. 17:9); and of the Apostle: "Among whom (sons of disobedience) we also once lived in the lusts of the flesh, doing the desires of the flesh and of the mind" (Eph. 2:3).

j. III, IV, Rejection of Errors, 4.

The true doctrine having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those who teach: That the unregenerate man is not really nor utterly dead in sin, nor destitute of all powers unto spiritual good, but that he can yet hunger and thirst after righteousness and life, and offer the sacrifice of a broken spirit, which is pleasing to God. For these are contrary to the express testimony of Scripture. "Ye were dead through trespasses and sins" (Eph. 2:1, 5); and: "Every imagination of the thought of his heart are (sic) only evil continually" (Gen. 6:5; 8:21).
Moreover, to hunger and thirst after deliverance from misery, and after life, and to offer unto God the sacrifice of a broken spirit, is peculiar to the regenerate and to those that are called blessed (Ps. 51:10, 19Matt. 5:6).

k. III, IV, Rejection of Errors, 5.

The true doctrine having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those who teach: That the corrupt and natural man can so well use the common grace (by which they understand the light of nature), or the gifts still left him after the fall, that he can gradually gain by their good use a greater, viz., the evangelical or saving grace and salvation itself. And that in this way God on his part shows himself ready to reveal Christ unto all men, since he applies to all sufficiently and efficiently the means necessary to conversion. For the experience of all ages and the Scripture do both testify that this is untrue. "He showeth his Word unto Jacob, his statutes and ordinances unto Israel. He hath not so dealt with any nation: and as for his ordinances they have not known them" (Ps. 147:19, 20). "Who in the generations gone by suffered all nations to walk in their own way" (Acts 14:16). And: "And they (Paul and his companions) having been forbidden of the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia, and when they were come over against Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia, and the Spirit suffered them not" (Acts 16:6, 7).

4. The Westminster Confession of Faith

a. Chapter VI. Of the Fall of Man, of Sin, and of the Punishment thereof.

Article 1. Our first parents, being seduced by the subtlety and temptation of Satan, sinned, in eating the forbidden fruit. This their sin, God was pleased, according to His wise and holy counsel, to permit, having purposed to order it to His own glory.
Gen. 3:8II Cor. 9:3Rom. 9:32.
Article 2. By this sin they fell from their original righteousness and communion, with God, and so became dead in sin, and wholly defiled in all the parts and faculties of soul and body.
Gen. 3:6-8Eccl. 7:29Rom. 3:23.
Article 3. They being the root of all mankind, the guilt of this sin was imputed; and the same death in sin, and corrupted nature, conveyed to all their posterity descending from them by ordinary generation.
Gen. 1:27, 28; 2:16, 17; Acts 17:26 with Rom. 5:12, 15-19I Cor. 15:21, 22, 45, 49Ps. 51:5Gen. 5:3Job 14:4; 15:14.
Article 4. From this original corruption, whereby we are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil, do proceed all actual transgressions.
Rom. 5:6; 8:7; 7:18; Col. 1:21Gen. 6:5; 8:21; Rom. 3:10-12James 1:14, 15Eph. 2:2, 3Matt. 15:19.
Art. 5. This corruption of the nature, during this life, doth remain in those that are regenerated; and though it be, through Christ, pardoned and mortified; yet both itself, and all the motions thereof, are truly and properly sin.
I Jn. 1:8, 10Rom. 7:14, 17, 18, 23James 3:2Prov. 20:9Eccl. 7:20Rom. 7:5, 7, 8, 25Gal. 5:17.
Article 6. Every sin, both original and actual, being a transgression of the righteous law of God, and contrary there unto, doth, in its own nature, bring guilt upon the sinner, whereby he is bound over to the wrath of God, and curse of the law, and so made subject to death, with all miseries, spiritual, temporal, and eternal.
I Jn. 3:4Rom. 2:15; 3:9, 19; Eph. 2:8Gal. 3:10Rom. 7:23Eph. 4:18Rom. 8:20Matt. 15:41II Thess. 1:9.

b. Chapter IX. Of Free Will.

Article 3. Man, by his fall into a state of sin, hath wholly lost all ability of will to spiritual good accompanying salvation: so as, a natural man, being altogether averse from that good, and dead in sin, is not able by his own strength, to convert himself or to prepare himself there unto.
Rom. 5:6; 8:7; Jn. 15:5Rom. 3:10, 12Eph. 2:1, 5Col. 2:13Jn. 6:44, 65Eph. 2:2-5I Cor. 2:14Tit. 3:3-5.
Article 4. When God converts a sinner, and translates him into the state of grace, He frees him from his natural bondage under sin; and by His grace alone, enables him freely to will and to do that which is spiritually good; yet so, as that by reason of his remaining corruption, he doth not perfectly, not only will that which is good, but doth also will that which is evil.
Col. 1:13Jn. 8:34, 36; Phil. 2:13; Rom. 6:18, 22Gal. 5:17Rom. 7:15, 18-20, 23.
Article 5. The will of man is made perfectly and immutably free to do good alone in the state of glory only.
Eph. 4:13Heb. 12:23I Jn. 3:2Jude 24.

c. Chapter XVI. Of Good Works.

Article 7. Works done by unregenerate men, although for the matter of them they may be things which God commands; and of good use both to themselves and others: yet, because they proceed not from a heart purified by faith; nor are done in a right manner, according to the Word; nor to a right end, the glory of God, they are therefore sinful, and cannot please God, or make a man meet to receive grace from God: and yet, their neglect of them is more sinful and displeasing unto God.
II Kings 10:30, 31I Kings 21:27, 29; Phil. 1:15, 16, 18; Gen. 4:5Heb. 11:4, 6I Cor. 13:3; Is. 1:12; Matt. 6:2, 5, 16; Hag. 2:14Tit. 1:15Amos 5:21, 22Hos. 1:4Rom. 9:16Tit. 3:15Ps. 14:4; 36:3; Job 21:14, 15Matt. 25:41-45; 23:3.

5. The Westminster Larger Catechism

a. Question and Answer 25.

Wherein consisteth the sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell?
The sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell, consisteth in the guilt of Adam's first sin, the want of that righteousness wherein he was created, and the corruption of his nature, whereby he is utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite unto all that is spiritually good, and wholly inclined to all evil, and that continually; which is commonly called Original Sin, and from which do proceed all actual transgressions.
Rom. 5:12, 19; 3:10-19; Eph. 2:1-3Rom. 5:6; 8:7, 8; Gen. 6:5James 1:14, 15Matt. 15:19.

b. Question and Answer 27.

What misery did the fall bring upon mankind?
The fall brought upon man the loss of communion with God, His displeasure and curse; so as we are by nature children of wrath, bond slaves to Satan, and justly liable to the punishments in this world, and that which is to come.
Gen. 3:8, 10, 24Eph. 2:2, 3II Tim. 2:26Gen. 2:17Lam. 3:39Matt. 15:41, 46Jude 7.

c. Question and Answer 149.

Is any man able perfectly to keep the commandments of God?
No man is able, either of himself, or by any grace received in this life, perfectly to keep the commandments of God; but doth daily break them in thought, word, and deed.
Jam. 3:2Jn. 15:5Rom. 8:8Eccl. 7:20I Jn. 1:8, 10Gal. 5:17Rom. 7:18, 19Gen. 6:5; 8:21; Rom. 3:9-19Jam. 3:2-13.

C. Unconditional Election

1. Heidelberg Catechism

Lord's Day XXI, Question and Answer 54.

What believest thou concerning the holy, catholic church of Christ?
That the Son of God from the beginning to the end of the world, gathers, defends, and preserves to himself by his Spirit and word, out of the whole human race, a church chosen to everlasting life, agreeing in true faith; and that I am and forever shall remain, a living member thereof.
Jn. 10:11Gen. 26:4Rom. 9:24Eph. 1:10Jn. 10:16; Is. 59:21; Deut. 10:14, 15Acts 13:48I Cor. 1:8, 9Rom. 8:35ff

2. The Belgic Confession

Article XVI, Of Eternal Election.

We believe that all the posterity of Adam being thus fallen into perdition and ruin, by the sin of our first parents, God did then manifest himself such as he is; that is to say, merciful and just: Merciful, since he delivers and preserves from this perdition all, whom he, in his eternal and unchangeable counsel of mere goodness, hath elected in Christ Jesus our Lord, without any respect to their works: Just in leaving others in the fall and perdition wherein they have involved themselves.

3. The Canons of Dordt

a. I, 6.

That some receive the gift of faith from God, and others do not receive it proceeds from God's eternal decree, "For known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world" (Acts 15:18). "Who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will" (Eph. 1:11). According to which decree, he graciously softens the hearts of the elect, however obstinate, and inclines them to believe, while he leaves the non-elect in his just judgment to their own wickedness and obduracy. And herein is displayed the profound, the merciful, and at the same time the righteous discrimination between men, equally involved in ruin; or that decree of election and reprobation, revealed in the Word of God, which though men of perverse, impure, and unstable minds wrest to their own destruction, yet to holy and pious souls affords unspeakable consolation.

b. I, 7.

Election is the unchangeable purpose of God, whereby, before the foundations of the world, he hath, out of mere grace, according to the sovereign good pleasure of his own will, chosen from the whole human race, which had fallen through their own fault, from their primitive state of rectitude, into sin and destruction, a certain number of persons to redemption in Christ, whom he from eternity appointed the Mediator and Head of the elect, and the foundation of salvation.
This elect number, though by nature neither better nor more deserving than others, but with them involved in one common misery, God hath decreed to give to Christ, to be saved by him, and effectually to call and draw them by his Word and Spirit, to bestow upon them true faith, justification and sanctification; and having powerfully preserved them in the fellowship of his Son, finally, to glorify them for the demonstration of his mercy, and for the praise of his glorious grace; as it is written: "According as he hath chosen us in him, before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love; having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved" (Eph. 1:4-6). And elsewhere: "Whom he did predestinate, them he also called, and whom he called, them he also justified, and whom he justified them he also glorified" (Rom. 8:30). 

c. I, 9.

This election was not founded upon foreseen faith, and the obedience of faith, holiness, or any other good quality or disposition in man, as the pre-requisite, cause or condition on which it depended; but men are chosen to faith and to obedience of faith, holiness, etc., therefore election is the fountain of every saving good; from which proceed faith, holiness, and the other gifts of salvation, and finally eternal life itself, as its fruits and effects, according to that of the apostle: "He hath chosen us (not because we were) but that we should be holy, and without blame, before him in love" (Eph. 1:4). 

d. I, 10.

The good pleasure of God is the sole cause of this gracious election; which doth not consist herein, that out of all possible qualities and actions of men God has chosen some as a condition of salvation; but that he was pleased out of the common mass of sinners to adopt some certain persons as a peculiar people to himself, as it is written, "For the children being not yet born neither having done any good or evil," etc., it was said (namely to Rebecca): "the elder shall serve the younger; as it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated" (Rom. 9:11-13). "And as many as were ordained to eternal life believed" (Acts 13:48).

e. I. 11.

And as God himself is most wise, unchangeable, omniscient and omnipotent, so the election made by him can neither be interrupted nor changed, recalled or annulled; neither can the elect be cast away, nor their number diminished.

f. I, 15.

What particularly tends to illustrate and recommend to us the eternal and unmerited grace of election, is the express testimony of sacred Scripture, that not all, but some only are elected, while others are passed by in the eternal decrees; whom God, out of His sovereign, most just, irreprehensible and unchangeable good pleasure, hath decreed to leave in the common misery into which they have willfully plunged themselves, and not to bestow upon them saving faith and the grace of conversion; but permitting them in his just judgment to follow their own ways, at last for the declaration of his justice, to condemn and perish them forever, not only on account of their unbelief, but also for all their other sins. And this is the decree of reprobation which by no means makes God the author of sin (the very thought of which is blasphemy), but declares him to be an awful, irreprehensible, and righteous judge and avenger thereof.

g. I, Rejection of Errors, 1.

The true doctrine concerning Election and Rejection having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those who teach: That the will of God to save those who would believe and would persevere in faith, is the whole and entire decree of election unto salvation, and that nothing else concerning this decree has been revealed in God's Word.
For these deceive the simple and plainly contradict the Scriptures which declare that God will not only save those who believe, but that he has from eternity chosen certain particular persons to whom above others he in time will grant both faith in Christ and perseverance; as it is written: "I manifested thy name unto the men whom thou gavest me out of the world" (John 17:6). "And as many as were ordained to eternal life believed" (Acts 13:48). And: "Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blemish before him in love" (Eph. 1:4).

h. I, Rejection of Errors, 2.

The true doctrine concerning Election and Rejection having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those who teach: That there are various kinds of election of God unto eternal life: the one general and indefinite, the other particular and definite; and that the latter in turn is either incomplete, revocable, non-decisive, and conditional, or complete, irrevocable, decisive, and absolute. Likewise: that there is one election unto faith, and another unto salvation, so that election can be unto justifying faith without being a decisive election unto salvation. For this is a fancy of men's minds, invented regardless of the Scriptures, whereby the doctrine of election is corrupted, and this golden chain of our salvation is broken: "And whom he foreordained, them he also called; and whom he called, them he also justified; and whom he justified, them he also glorified" (Rom. 8:30).

i. I, Rejection of Errors, 3.

The true doctrine concerning Election and Rejection having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those who teach: That the good pleasure and purpose of God, of which Scripture makes mention in the doctrine of election, does not consist in this, that God chose certain persons rather than others, but in this that he chose out of all possible conditions (among which are also the works of the law), or out of the whole order of things, the act of faith which from its very nature is undeserving, as well as its complete obedience, as a condition of salvation, and that he would graciously consider this in itself as a complete obedience and count it worthy of the reward of eternal life. For by this injurious error the pleasure of God and the merits of Christ are made of none effect, and men are drawn away by useless questions from the truth of gracious justification and from the simplicity of Scripture, and this declaration of the Apostle is charged as untrue: "Who saved us, and called us by an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before times eternal" (II Tim. 1:9).

j. I, Rejection of Errors, 4.

The true doctrine concerning Election and Rejection having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those who teach: That in the election unto faith this condition is beforehand demanded, viz., that man should use the light of nature aright, be pious, humble, meek, and fit for eternal life, as if on these things election were in any way dependent. For this savors of the teaching of Pelagius, and is opposed to the doctrine of the apostle, when he writes: "Among whom we also once lived in the lust of our flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest; but God being rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace have ye been saved), and raised us up with him, and made us to sit with him in heavenly places, in Christ Jesus: that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus; for by grace have ye been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, that no man should glory" (Eph. 2:3-9).

k. I, Rejection of Errors, 5.

The true doctrine concerning Election and Rejection having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those who teach: That the incomplete and non-decisive election of particular persons to salvation occurred because of a foreseen faith, conversion, holiness, godliness, which either began or continued for some time; but that the complete and decisive election occurred because of foreseen perseverance in faith, conversion, holiness, and godliness; and that this is the gracious and evangelical worthiness, for the sake of which he who is chosen, is more worthy than he who is not chosen; and that therefore faith, holiness, godliness and perseverance are not fruits of the unchangeable election unto glory, but are conditions, which, being required beforehand, were foreseen as being met by those who will be fully elected, and are causes without which the unchangeable election to glory does not occur.
This is repugnant to the entire Scripture, which constantly inculcates this and similar declarations: Election is not of works but of him that calleth (Rom. 9:11). "And as many as were ordained to eternal life believed" (Acts 13:48). "He chose us in him before the foundations of the world, that we should be holy" (Eph. 1:4). "Ye did not choose me, but I chose you" (John 15:16). "But if it be of grace, it is no more of works" (Rom. 11:6). "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son" (I John 4:10).

l. I, Rejection of Errors, 6.

The true doctrine concerning Election and Rejection having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those who teach: That not every election unto salvation is unchangeable, but that some of the elect, any decree of God notwithstanding, can yet perish and do indeed perish. By which gross error they make God to be changeable, and destroy the comfort which the godly obtain out of the firmness of their election, and contradict the Holy Scripture, which teaches, that the elect cannot be lead astray (Matt. 24:24). That Christ does not lose those whom the Father gave him (John 6:39). And that God hath also glorified those whom he foreordained, called, and justified (Rom. 8:30).

The next four articles from the Canons show the relationship between unconditional election and limited atonement, that is, that Christ died for the elect.

m. II, 8.

For this was the sovereign counsel, and most gracious will and purpose of God the Father, that the quickening and saving efficacy of the most precious death of his Son should extend to all the elect, for bestowing on them alone the gift of justifying faith, thereby to bring them infallibly to salvation: that is, it was the will of God, that Christ, by the blood of the cross, whereby he confirmed the new covenant, should effectually redeem out of every people, tribe, nation, and language, all those, and those only, who were from eternity chosen to salvation, and given him by the Father; that he should confer upon them faith, which together with all the other saving gifts of the Holy Spirit, he purchased for them by his death; should purge them from all sin, both original and actual, whether committed before or after believing; and having faithfully preserved them to the end, should at last bring them free from every spot or blemish to the enjoyment of glory in his own presence forever.

n. II, 9.

This purpose proceeding from everlasting love towards the elect, has from the beginning of the world to this day been powerfully accomplished, and will henceforward still continue to be accomplished, notwithstanding all the ineffectual opposition of the gates of hell, so that the elect in due time may be gathered together into one, and that there may never be wanting a church composed of believers, the foundation of which is laid in the blood of Christ, which may steadfastly love, and faithfully serve him as their Savior, who as a bridegroom for his bride, laid down his life for them upon the cross, and which may celebrate his praises here and through all eternity.

o. II, Rejection of Errors, 1.

The true doctrine having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those who teach: That God the Father had ordained his Son to the death of the cross without a certain and definite decree to save any, so that the necessity, profitableness, and worth of what Christ merited by his death might have existed, and might remain in all its parts complete, perfect and intact, even if the merited redemption had never in fact been applied to any person. For this doctrine tends to the despising of the wisdom of the Father and of the merits of Jesus Christ, and is contrary to the Scripture. For thus saith our Savior: "I lay down my life for the sheep, and I know them" (John 10:15, 27). And the prophet Isaiah saith concerning the Savior: "When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of Jehovah shall prosper in his hand" (Is. 53:10). Finally this contradicts the article of faith according to which we believe the catholic Christian church (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord's Day XXI, 54).

p. II, Rejection of Errors, 7.

The true doctrine having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those who teach: That Christ neither could die, nor did die for those whom God loved in the highest degree and elected to eternal life, and did not die for these, since these do not need the death of Christ. For they contradict the Apostle, who declares: "Christ loved me, and gave himself for me" (Gal. 2:20). Likewise: "who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth; who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died" (Rom. 8:33, 34), viz., for them; and the Savior who says: "I lay down my life for the sheep" (John 10:15). And: "This is my commandment, that ye love one another, even as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:12, 13).

The last four articles from the Canons quoted here show how unconditional election is fulfilled and carried out by irresistible grace and the preservation of saints.

q. III, IV, 10.

But that others who are called by the gospel, obey the call, and are converted is not to be ascribed to the proper exercise of free will, whereby one distinguishes himself above others, equally furnished with grace sufficient for faith and conversions, as the proud heresy of Pelagius maintains; but it must be wholly ascribed to God, who as he has chosen his own in Christ, so he confers upon them faith and repentance, rescues them from the power of darkness, and translates them into the kingdom of his own Son, that they may show forth the praises of him who hath called them out of darkness into his marvelous light; and may glory not in themselves, but in the Lord according to the testimony of the apostles in various places.

r. V, 6.

But God, who is rich in mercy, according to his unchangeable purpose of election, does not wholly withdraw his Holy Spirit from his own people, even in their melancholy falls; nor suffers them to proceed so far as to lose the grace of adoption, and forfeit the state of justification, or to commit the sin unto death; nor does he permit them to be wholly deserted, and to plunge themselves into everlasting destruction.

s. V, 8.

Thus, it is not in consequence of their own merits, or strength, but of God's free mercy, that they do not wholly fall from faith and grace, nor continue and perish finally in their backslidings; which, with respect to themselves, is not only possible, but would undoubtedly happen; but with respect to God, it is utterly impossible, since his counsel cannot be changed, nor his promise fail, neither can the call according to his purpose be revoked, nor the merit, intercession and preservation of Christ be rendered ineffectual, nor the sealing of the Holy Spirit be obliterated.

t. V, Rejection of Errors, 1.

The true doctrine having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those who teach: That the perseverance of the true believers is not a fruit of election, or a gift of God, gained by the death of Christ, but a condition of the new covenant, which (as they declare) man before his decisive election and justification must fulfill through his own free will. For the Holy Scripture testifies that this follows out of election, and is given to the elect in virtue of the death, the resurrection and intercession of Christ: "But the elect obtained it and the rest were hardened" (Rom. 11:7). Likewise: "He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him freely give us all things? Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth; who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea, rather, that was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?" (Rom. 8:32-35)

4. The Westminster Confession of Faith

a. Chapter III. Of God's Eternal Decree.

Article 6. As God hath appointed the elect unto glory, so hath He, by the eternal and most free purpose of His will, foreordained all the means there unto. Wherefore, they who are elected, being fallen in Adam, are redeemed in Christ, are effectually called unto faith in Christ by His Spirit working in due season, are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by His power, through faith, unto salvation. Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified and saved, but the elect only.
Jn. 17:9Rom. 8:28ff., Jn. 6:64, 65; 10:26; 8:47; I Jn 2:19.

b. Chapter XI. Of Justification.

Article 4. God did, from all eternity, decree to justify all the elect, and Christ did, in the fullness of time, die for their sins, and rise again for their justification: nevertheless, they are not justified, until the Holy Spirit doth, in due time, actually apply Christ unto them.
Gal. 3:8I Pet. 1:2, 19, 20Rom. 8:30.

5. The Westminster Larger Catechism

a. Question and Answer 12.

What are the decrees of God?
God's decrees are the wise, free, and holy acts of the counsel of His will, whereby, from all eternity, He hath, for His own glory, unchangeably foreordained whatsoever comes to pass in time, especially concerning angels and men.
Eph. 1:11Rom. 11:33; 9:14, 15, 18; Eph. 1:4, 11Rom. 9:22, 23; Ps. 33:11.

b. Question and Answer 13.

What hath God especially decreed concerning angels and men?
God, by an eternal and immutable decree, out of His mere love, for the praise of His glorious grace, to be manifested in due time, hath elected some angels to glory; and in Christ hath chosen some men to eternal life, and the means thereof: and also, according to His sovereign power, and the unsearchable counsel of His own will (whereby He extendeth or withholdeth favour as He pleaseth), hath passed by and foreordained the rest to dishonour and wrath, to be for their sin inflicted, to the praise of the glory of His justice.
I Tim. 5:21Eph. 1:4-6II Thess. 2:13, 14Rom. 9:17, 18, 21, 22; Matt. 1:25, 26II Tim. 2:20Jude 4I Pet. 2:8.

c. Question and Answer 14.

How doth God execute His decrees?
God executeth His decrees in the works of creation and providence, according to His infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of His own will.
Eph. 1:11.

D. Limited Atonement

1. Heidelberg Catechism

a. Lord's Day XI, Question and Answer 29.

Why is the Son of God called Jesus, that is a Savior?
Because he saveth us, and delivereth us from our sins; and likewise, because we ought not to seek, neither can find salvation in any other.
Matt. 1:21Acts 4:12.

In the preceding quotation we have an excellent example of many articles in all the creeds which use the words "we" and "us" to describe those who benefit from Christ's death - words that are by their very nature exclusive and not inclusive.

Though the next article does not answer directly the question "For whom did Christ die?" it nonetheless supports the doctrine of limited atonement by insisting that those for whom Christ died are completely saved in Him and that salvation is not just made possible for them. In fact, the Belgic Confession in Article XXII, below, calls the idea that Christ only makes salvation possible a gross blasphemy.

b. Lord's Day XI, Question and Answer 30.

Do such then believe in Jesus the only Savior, who seek their salvation and welfare of saints, or themselves, or anywhere else?
They do not; for though they boast of him in words, yet in deeds they deny Jesus the only deliverer and Savior; for one of these two things must be true, that either Jesus is not a complete Savior; or that they, who by a true faith receive this Savior, must find all things in him necessary to their salvation.
I Cor. 1:13, 31Gal. 5:4Col. 2:20; Is. 9:6, 7; Col. 1:19, 20.

c. Lord's Day XXI, Question and Answer 54.

What believest thou concerning the "holy catholic church" of Christ?
That the Son of God from the beginning to the end of the world, gathers, defends, and preserves to himself by his Spirit and Word, out of the whole human race, a church chosen to everlasting life, agreeing in true faith; and that I am and forever shall remain, a living member thereof.
Jn. 10:11Gen. 26:4Rom. 9:24Eph. 1:10Jn. 10:16; Is. 59:21; Deut. 10:14, 15Acts 13:48I Cor. 1:8, 9Rom. 8:35ff

2. The Belgic Confession

Article XXII. Of Faith in Jesus Christ.

We believe that, to attain the true knowledge of this great mystery, the Holy Ghost kindleth in our hearts an upright faith, which embraces Jesus Christ, with all his merits, appropriates him, and seeks nothing more besides. For it must needs follow, either that all things, which are requisite to our salvation, are not in Jesus Christ, or if all things are in him, that then those who possess Jesus Christ through faith, have complete salvation in him. Therefore, for any to assert, that Christ is not sufficient, but that something more is required besides him, would be too gross a blasphemy: for hence it would follow that Christ was but half a Savior.

3. The Canons of Dordt

a. I, 7.

Election is the unchangeable purpose of God, whereby, before the foundations of the world, he hath, out of mere grace, according to the sovereign good pleasure of his own will, chosen from the whole human race, which had fallen through their own fault, from their primitive state of rectitude, into sin and destruction, a certain number of persons to redemption in Christ, whom he from eternity appointed the Mediator and Head of the elect, and the foundation of salvation.
This elect number, though by nature neither better nor more deserving than others, but with them involved in one common misery, God hath decreed to give to Christ, to be saved by him, and effectually to call and draw them by his Word and Spirit, to bestow upon them true faith, justification and sanctification; and having powerfully preserved them in the fellowship of his Son, finally, to glorify them for the demonstration of his mercy, and for the praise of his glorious grace; as it is written: "According as he hath chosen us in him, before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love; having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved" (Eph. 1:4-6). And elsewhere: "Whom he did predestinate, them he also called, and whom he called, them he also justified, and whom he justified them he also glorified" (Rom. 8:30).

b. II, 7, 8.

But as many as truly believe, and are delivered and saved from sin and destruction through the death of Christ, are indebted for this benefit solely to the grace of God, given them in Christ from everlasting, and not to any merit of their own.
For this was the sovereign counsel, and most gracious will and purpose of God the Father, that the quickening and saving efficacy of the most precious death of his Son should extend to all the elect, for bestowing on them alone the gift of justifying faith, thereby to bring them infallibly to salvation: that is, it was the will of God, that Christ, by the blood of the cross, whereby he confirmed the new covenant, should effectually redeem out of every people, tribe, nation, and language, all those, and those only, who were from eternity chosen to salvation, and given him by the Father; that he should confer upon them faith, which together with all the other saving gifts of the Holy Spirit, he purchased for them by his death; should purge them from all sin, both original and actual, whether committed before or after believing; and having faithfully preserved them to the end, should at last bring them free from every spot or blemish to the enjoyment of glory in his own presence forever.

c. II, Rejection of Errors, 1.

The true doctrine having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those who teach: That God the Father had ordained his Son to the death of the cross without a certain and definite decree to save any, so that the necessity, profitableness, and worth of what Christ merited by his death might have existed, and might remain in all its parts complete, perfect, and intact, even if the merited redemption had never in fact been applied to any person. For this doctrine tends to the despising of the wisdom of the Father and of the merits of Jesus Christ, and is contrary to the Scripture. For thus saith our Savior: "I lay down my life for the sheep, and I know them" (John 10:15, 27). And the prophet Isaiah saith concerning the Savior: "When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of Jehovah shall prosper in his hand" (Is. 53:10). Finally this contradicts the article of faith according to which we believe the catholic Christian church (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord's Day XXI, 54).

d. II, Rejection of Errors, 5.

The true doctrine having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those who teach: That all men have been accepted unto the state of reconciliation and unto the grace of the covenant, so that no one is worthy of condemnation on account of original sin, and that no one shall be condemned because of it, but that all are free from the guilt of original sin. For this opinion is repugnant to Scripture which teaches that we are by nature children of wrath.

e. II, Rejection of Errors, 6.

The true doctrine having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those: Who use the difference between meriting and appropriating, to the end that they may instill into the minds of the imprudent and inexperienced this teaching that God, as far as he is concerned, has been minded of applying to all equally the benefits gained by the death of Christ; but that while some obtain the pardon of sin and eternal life, and others do not, this difference depends on their own free will, which joins itself to the grace that is offered without exception, and that it is not dependent on the special gift of mercy, which powerfully works in them, that they rather than others should appropriate unto themselves this grace. For these, while they feign that they present this distinction, in a sound sense, seek to instill into the people the destructive poison of the Pelagian errors. 

4. The Westminster Confession of Faith

a. Chapter III. Of God's Eternal Decree.

Article 6. As God hath appointed the elect unto glory, so hath He, by the eternal and most free purpose of His will, foreordained all the means thereunto. Wherefore, they who are elected, being fallen in Adam, are redeemed in Christ, are effectually called unto faith in Christ by His Spirit working in due season, are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by His power, through faith, unto salvation. Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified and saved, but the elect only.
Jn. 17:9Rom. 8:28ff.; Jn. 6:64, 65; 10:26; 8:47; I Jn. 2:19

b. Chapter VIII. Of Christ the Mediator.

Article 5. The Lord Jesus, by His perfect obedience, and sacrifice of Himself, which He through the eternal Spirit, once offered up unto God, hath fully satisfied the justice of His Father; and purchased, not only reconciliation, but an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of heaven, for all those whom the Father hath given unto Him.
Rom. 5:19Heb. 9:14, 16; 10:14; Eph. 5:2Rom. 3:25, 26Dan. 9:24, 26Col. 1:19, 20Eph. 1:11, 14Jn. 17:2Heb. 9:12, 15.
Article 8. To all those for whom Christ hath purchased redemption, He doth certainly and effectually apply and communicate the same; making intercession for them, and revealing unto them, in and by the Word, the mysteries of salvation; effectually persuading them by His Spirit to believe and obey, and governing their hearts by His Word and Spirit; overcoming all their enemies by His almighty power and wisdom, in such manner, and ways, as are most consonant to His wonderful and unsearchable dispensation.
Jn. 6:37, 39; 10:15, 16; I Jn. 2:1, 2Rom. 8:34Jn. 15:13, 15; Eph. 1:7-9Jn. 17:6; 14:16; Heb. 12:2II Cor. 4:13Rom. 8:9, 14; 15:18, 19; Jn. 17:17.

c. Chapter XI. Of Justification.

Article 3. Christ, by His obedience and death, did fully discharge the debt of all those that are thus justified, and did make a proper, real, and full satisfaction to His Father's justice in their behalf. Yet, in as much as He was given by the Father for them; and His obedience and satisfaction accepted in their stead; and both, freely, not for anything in them; their justification is only of free grace; that both the exact justice and rich grace of God might be glorified in the justification of sinners.
Rom. 5:8-10, 19I Tim. 2:5, 6Heb. 10:10, 14Dan. 9:24, 26; Is. 53:4-6, 10-12; Rom. 8:32II Cor. 5:21Matt. 3:17Eph. 5:2Rom. 3:24Eph. 1:7Rom. 3:26Eph. 2:7.
Article 4. God did, from all eternity, decree to justify all the elect, and Christ did, in the fullness of time, die for their sins, and rise again for their justification: nevertheless, they are not justified, until the Holy Spirit doth, in due time, actually apply Christ unto them.
Gal. 3:8I Pet. 1:2, 19, 20Rom. 8:30.

5. The Westminster Larger Catechism

a. Question and Answer 38.

Why was it requisite that the Mediator should be God?
It was requisite that the Mediator should be God, that He might sustain and keep the human nature from sinking under the infinite wrath of God, and the power of death; give worth and efficacy to His sufferings, obedience, and intercession; and to satisfy God's justice, procure His favour, purchase a peculiar people, give His Spirit to them, conquer all their enemies, and bring them to everlasting salvation.
Acts 2:24, 25Rom. 1:4; 4:25; Heb. 9:14Acts 20:28Heb. 7:25-28Rom. 3:24-26Eph. 1:6Matt. 3:17Tit. 2:13, 14Gal. 4:6Luke 1:68, 69, 71, 74Heb. 5:8, 9; 9:11-15.

b. Question and Answer 41.

Why was our Mediator called Jesus?
Our Mediator was called Jesus, because He saveth His people from their sins.
Matt. 1:21.
c. Question and Answer 44.
How doth Christ execute the office of a priest?
Christ executeth the office of a priest, in His once offering Himself a sacrifice without spot to God, to be reconciliation for the sins of His people; and in making continual intercession for them.
Heb. 9:14, 28;2:17; 7:25.

d. Question and Answer 46.

What was the estate of Christ's humiliation?
The estate of Christ's humiliation was that low condition, wherein He for our sakes, emptying Himself of His glory, took upon Him the form of a servant, in His conception and birth, life, death, and after His death, until His resurrection.
Phil. 2:6-8; Luke 1:31II Cor. 8:9Acts 2:24

e. Question and Answer 59.

Who are made partakers of redemption through Christ?
Redemption is certainly applied, and effectually communicated, to all those for whom Christ hath purchased it; who are in time by the Holy Ghost enabled to believe in Christ according to the gospel.
Eph. 1:13, 14Jn. 6:37, 39; 10:15, 16; Eph. 2:8II Cor. 4:13.

E. Irresistible Grace

1. The Heidelberg Catechism

a. Lord's Day I, Question and Answer 1.

What is thy only comfort in life and death?
That I am not my own but belong unto my faithful Savior Jesus Christ; who, with his precious blood, hath fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, and therefore, by his Holy Spirit, he also assures me of eternal life, and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto him.
I Cor. 6:19, 20Rom. 14:7-9I Cor. 3:23I Pet. 1:18, 19I Jn. 1:7; 3:8; Heb. 2:14, 15Jn. 6:39; 10:28, 29; Lk. 21:18; Matt. 10:30Rom. 8:28II Cor. 1:22; 5:5; Rom. 8:14; 7:22.

b. Lord's Day III, Question and Answer 8.

Are we then so corrupt that we are wholly incapable of doing any good, and inclined to all wickedness?
Indeed we are; except we are regenerated by the Spirit of God.
Gen. 6:5Job 14:4;15:14, 16; Jn. 3:5Eph. 2:5

c. Lord's Day XX, Question and Answer 53.

What believest thou concerning the Holy Ghost?
First, that he is true and co-eternal God with the Father and the Son; secondly, that he is also given me, to make me by a true faith, partaker of Christ and all his benefits, that he may comfort me and abide with me forever.
Gen. 1:2; Is. 48:16; I Cor. 3:16Matt. 28:19II Cor. 1:22Gal. 3:14I Pet. 1:2Acts 9:31Jn. 14:16I Pet. 4:14.

d. Lord's Day XXXII, Question and Answer 86.

Since then we are delivered from our misery, merely of grace, through Christ, without any merit of ours, why must we still do good works?
Because Christ, having redeemed and delivered us by his blood, also renews us by his Holy Spirit, after his own image; that so we may testify, by the whole of our conduct, our gratitude to God for his blessings, and that he may be praised by us; also, that everyone may be assured in himself of his faith, by the fruits thereof; and that by our godly conversation, others may be gained to Christ.
I Cor. 6:19, 20Rom. 6:13;12:1, 2; I Pet. 2:5, 9, 10Matt. 5:16I Pet. 2:12II Pet. 1:10Gal. 5:6, 24I Pet. 3:1, 2Matt. 5:16Rom. 14:19.

2. The Belgic Confession

a. Article XIV. Of the Creation and Fall of man, and his Incapacity to perform what is truly good.

Therefore we reject all that is taught repugnant to this, concerning the free will of man, since man is but a slave to sin, and has nothing of himself, unless it is given from heaven. For who may presume to boast, that he of himself can do any good, since Christ saith, No man can come to me except the Father, which hath sent me draw him? Who will glory in his own will, who understands, that to be carnally minded is enmity against God? Who can speak of his knowledge, since the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God? In short, who dare suggest any thought, since he knows that we are not sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves, but that our sufficiency is of God? And therefore what the apostle saith ought justly to be held sure and firm, that God worketh in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure. For there is no will or understanding, conformable to the divine will and understanding, but what Christ hath wrought in man; which he teaches us when he saith, Without me ye can do nothing.

b. Article XXII. Of Faith in Jesus Christ.

We believe that, to attain the true knowledge of this great mystery, the Holy Ghost kindleth in our hearts an upright faith, which embraces Jesus Christ, with all his merits, appropriates him, and seeks nothing more besides. For it must needs follow, either that all things, which are requisite to our salvation, are not in Jesus Christ, or if all things are in him, that then those who possess Jesus Christ through faith, have complete salvation in him. Therefore, for any to assert, that Christ is not sufficient, but that something more is required besides him, would be too gross a blasphemy: for hence it would follow that Christ was but half a Savior.

c. Article XXIV. Of man's Sanctification and Good Works.

We believe that this true faith being wrought in man by the hearing of the Word of God, and the operation of the Holy Ghost, doth regenerate and make him a new man, causing him to live a new life, and freeing him from the bondage of sin. Therefore it is so far from being true, that this justifying faith makes men remiss in a pious and holy life, that on the contrary without it they would never do anything out of love to God, but only out of self-love or fear of damnation. Therefore it is impossible that this holy faith can be unfruitful in man: for we do not speak of a vain faith, but of such a faith, which is called in Scripture, a faith which worketh by love, which God has commanded in his Word. Which works, as they proceed from the good root of faith, are good and acceptable in the sight of God, forasmuch as they are all sanctified by his grace: howbeit they are of no account towards our justification. For it is by faith in Christ that we are justified, even before we do good works; otherwise they could not be good works, any more than the fruit of a tree can be good, before the tree itself is good. Therefore we do good works, but not to merit by them (for what can we merit?), nay, we are beholden to God for the good works we do, and not he to us, for it is he that worketh in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Let us therefore attend to what is written: when ye shall have done all these things which are commanded you, say, we are unprofitable servants; we have done that which was our duty to do. In the meantime, we do not deny that God rewards our good works, but it is through his grace that he crowns his gifts. Moreover, though we do good works, we do not found our salvation upon them; for we do no work but what is polluted by our flesh, and also punishable; and although we could perform such works, still the remembrance of one sin is sufficient to make God reject them. Thus then we would always be in doubt, tossed to and fro without any certainty, and our poor consciences continually vexed, if they relied not on the merits of the suffering and death of our Savior.

3. The Canons of Dordt

Here are three articles from the first chapter of the Canons that show the relationship between irresistible grace and unconditional election, for an election which is truly unconditional demands a grace so powerful.

a. I, 6.

That some receive the gift of faith from God, and others do not receive it proceeds from God's eternal decree, "For known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world" (Acts 15:18). "Who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will" (Eph. 1:11). According to which decree, he graciously softens the hearts of the elect, however obstinate, and inclines them to believe, while he leaves the non-elect in his just judgment to their own wickedness and obduracy. And herein is displayed the profound, the merciful, and at the same time the righteous discrimination between men, equally involved in ruin; or that decree of election and reprobation, revealed in the Word of God, which though men of perverse, impure, and unstable minds wrest to their own destruction, yet to holy and pious souls affords unspeakable consolation.

b. I, 7.

Election is the unchangeable purpose of God, whereby, before the foundations of the world, he hath, out of mere grace, according to the sovereign good pleasure of his own will, chosen from the whole human race, which had fallen through their own fault, from their primitive state of rectitude, into sin and destruction, a certain number of persons to redemption in Christ, whom he from eternity appointed the Mediator and Head of the elect, and the foundation of salvation.
This elect number, though by nature neither better nor more deserving than others, but with them involved in one common misery, God hath decreed to give to Christ, to be saved by him, and effectually to call and draw them by his Word and Spirit, to bestow upon them true faith, justification and sanctification; and having powerfully preserved them in the fellowship of his Son, finally, to glorify them for the demonstration of his mercy, and for the praise of his glorious grace; as it is written: "According as he hath chosen us in him, before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love; having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved" (Eph. 1:4-6). And elsewhere: "Whom he did predestinate, them he also called, and whom he called, them he also justified, and whom he justified them he also glorified" (Rom. 8:30).

c. I, 8.

There are not various decrees of election, but one and the same decree respecting all those, who shall be saved, both under the Old and New Testament: since the Scripture declares the good pleasure, purpose and counsel of the divine will to be one, according to which he hath chosen us from eternity, both to grace and glory, to salvation and the way of salvation, which he hath ordained that we should walk therein.

The following four articles are taken from the second chapter of the Canons and show how the atonement of Christ, limited to the elect, is made powerful and infallible by the irresistible grace of God.

d. II, 7.

But as many as truly believe, and are delivered and saved from sin and destruction through the death of Christ, are indebted for this benefit solely to the grace of God, given them in Christ from everlasting, and not to any merit of their own.

e. II. 8.

For this was the sovereign counsel, and most gracious will and purpose of God the Father, that the quickening and saving efficacy of the most precious death of his Son should extend to all the elect, for bestowing on them alone the gift of justifying faith, thereby to bring them infallibly to salvation: that is, it was the will of God, that Christ, by the blood of the cross, whereby he confirmed the new covenant, should effectually redeem out of every people, tribe, nation, and language, all those, and those only, who were from eternity chosen to salvation, and given him by the Father; that he should confer upon them faith, which together with all the other saving gifts of the Holy Spirit, he purchased for them by his death; should purge them from all sin, both original and actual, whether committed before or after believing; and having faithfully preserved them to the end, should at last bring them free from every spot or blemish to the enjoyment of glory in his own presence forever. 

f. II, 9.

This purpose proceeding from everlasting love towards the elect, has from the beginning of the world to this day been powerfully accomplished, and will henceforward still continue to be accomplished, notwithstanding all the ineffectual opposition of the gates of hell, so that the elect in due time may be gathered together into one, and that there may never be wanting a church composed of believers, the foundation of which is laid in the blood of Christ, which may steadfastly love, and faithfully serve him as their Savior, who as a bridegroom for his bride, laid down his life for them upon the cross, and which may celebrate his praises here and through all eternity.

g. II, Rejection of Errors, 6.

The true doctrine having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those: Who use the difference between meriting and appropriating, to the end that they may instill into the minds of the imprudent and inexperienced this teaching that God, as far as he is concerned, has been minded of applying to all equally the benefits gained by the death of Christ; but that while some obtain the pardon of sin and eternal life, and others do not, this difference depends on their own free will, which joins itself to the grace that is offered without exception, and that it is not dependent on the special gift of mercy, which powerfully works in them, that they rather than others should appropriate unto themselves this grace. For these, while they feign that they present this distinction, in a sound sense, seek to instill into the people the destructive poison of the Pelagian errors. 

h. III, IV, 10.

But that others who are called by the gospel, obey the call, and are converted is not to be ascribed to the proper exercise of free will, whereby one distinguishes himself above others, equally furnished with grace sufficient for faith and conversions, as the proud heresy of Pelagius maintains; but it must be wholly ascribed to God, who as he has chosen his own in Christ, so he confers upon them faith and repentance, rescues them from the power of darkness, and translates them into the kingdom of his own Son, that they may show forth the praises of him who hath called them out of darkness into his marvelous light; and may glory not in themselves, but in the Lord according to the testimony of the apostles in various places. 

i. III, IV, 11.

But when God accomplishes his good pleasure in the elect, or works in them true conversion, he not only causes the gospel to be externally preached to them, and powerfully illuminates their minds by his Holy Spirit, that they may rightly discern the things of the Spirit of God; but by the efficacy of the same regenerating Spirit, pervades the inmost recesses of the man; he opens the closed, and softens the hardened heart, and circumcises that which was uncircumcised, infuses new qualities into the will, which though heretofore dead, he quickens; from being evil, disobedient, and refractory, he renders it good, obedient, and pliable; actuates and strengthens it, that like a good tree, it may bring forth fruits of good actions.

j. III, IV, 12.

And this is the regeneration so highly celebrated in Scripture, and denominated a new creation; a resurrection from the dead, a making alive, which God works in us without our aid. But this is in no wise effected merely by the external preaching of the gospel, by moral suasion, or such a mode of operation, that after God has performed his part, it still remains in the power of man to be regenerated or not, to be converted or to continue unconverted; but it is evidently a supernatural work, most powerful, and at the same time most delightful, astonishing, mysterious, and ineffable; not inferior in efficacy to creation, or the resurrection from the dead, as the Scripture inspired by the author of this work declares; so that all in whose heart God works in this marvelous manner, are certainly, infallibly, and effectually regenerated, and do actually believe. Whereupon the will thus renewed, is not only actuated and influenced by God, but in consequence of this influence, becomes itself active. Wherefore also, man is himself rightly said to believe and repent, by virtue of that grace received. 

k. III, IV, 13.

The manner of this operation cannot be fully comprehended by believers in this life. Notwithstanding which, they rest satisfied with knowing and experiencing, that by this grace of God they are enabled to believe with the heart, and love their Savior. 

l. III, IV, 14.

Faith is therefore to be considered as the gift of God, not on account of its being offered by God to man, to be accepted or rejected by him at his pleasure; but because it is in reality conferred, breathed, and infused into him; or even because God bestows the power or ability to believe, and then expects that man should by the exercise of his own free will, consent to the terms of salvation, and actually believe in Christ; but because he who works in man both to will and to do and indeed all things in all, produces both the will to believe, and the act of believing also.

m. III, IV, 16.

But as man by the fall did not cease to be a creature, endowed with understanding and will, nor did sins which pervaded the whole race of mankind, deprive him of the human nature, but brought upon him depravity and spiritual death; so also this grace of regeneration does not treat men as senseless stocks and blocks, nor takes away their will and its properties, neither does violence thereto; but spiritually quickens, heals, corrects, and at the same time sweetly and powerfully bends it; that where carnal rebellion and resistance formerly prevailed, a ready and sincere spiritual obedience begins to reign; in which the true and spiritual restoration and freedom of our will consist. Wherefore unless the admirable author of every good work wrought in us, man could have no hope of recovering from his fall by his own free will, by the abuse of which, in a state of innocence, he plunged himself into ruin. 

n. III, IV, 17.

As the almighty operation of God, whereby he prolongs and supports this our natural life, does not exclude, but requires the use of means, by which God of his infinite mercy and goodness hath chosen to exert his influence, so also the before mentioned supernatural operation of God, by which we are regenerated, in no wise excludes or subverts the use of the gospel, which the most wise God has ordained to be the seed of regeneration, and food of the soul. Wherefore, as the apostles, and teachers who succeeded them, piously instructed the people concerning this grace of God, to his glory, and the abasement of all pride, and in the meantime, however, neglected not to keep them by the sacred precepts of the gospel in the exercise of the Word, sacraments and discipline; even so to this day, be it far from either instructors or instructed to presume to tempt God in the church by separating what he of his good pleasure hath most intimately joined together. For grace is conferred by means or admonitions; and the more readily we perform our duty, the more eminent usually is this blessing of God working in us, and the more directly is his work advanced; to whom alone all the glory both of means, and of their saving fruit and efficacy is forever due. Amen.

o. III, IV, Rejection of Errors, 6.

The true doctrine having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those who teach: That in the true conversion of man no new qualities, powers or gifts can be infused by God into the will, and that therefore faith through which we are first converted, and because of which we are called believers, is not a quality or gift infused by God, but only an act of man, and that it cannot be said to be a gift, except in respect of the power to attain to this faith. For thereby they contradict the Holy Scriptures, which declare that God infuses new qualities of faith, of obedience, and of the consciousness of his love into our hearts: "I will put my law in their inward parts, and in their hearts will I write it" (Jer. 31:33). And: "I will pour water upon him that is thirsty and streams upon the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon thy seed" (Is. 44:3). And: "The love of God hath been shed abroad in our hearts through the Holy Spirit which hath been given us" (Rom. 5:5). This is also repugnant to the continuous practice of the church, which prays by the mouth of the Prophet thus: "Turn thou me, and I shall be turned" (Jer. 31:18).

p. III, IV, Rejection of Errors, 7.

The true doctrine having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those who teach: That the grace whereby we are converted to God is only a gentle advising, or (as others explain it), that this is the noblest manner of working, which consists in advising, is most in harmony with man's nature; and that there is no reason why this advising grace alone should not be sufficient to make the natural man spiritual, indeed, that God does not produce the consent of the will except through this manner of advising; and that the power of the divine working, whereby it surpasses the working of Satan, consists in this, that God promises eternal, while Satan promises only temporal good. But this is altogether Pelagian and contrary to the whole Scripture which, besides this, teaches yet another and far more powerful and divine manner of the Holy Spirit's working in the conversion of man, as in Ezekiel: "A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh" (Ezek. 36:26).

q. III, IV, Rejection of Errors, 8.

The true doctrine having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those who teach: That God in the regeneration of man does not use such powers of his omnipotence as potently and infallibly bend man's will to faith and conversion; but that all the works of grace having been accomplished, which God employs to convert man, man may yet so resist God and the Holy Spirit, when God intends man's regeneration and wills to regenerate him, and indeed man often does so resist, that he prevents entirely his regeneration, and that it therefore remains in man's power to be regenerated or not. For this is nothing less than a denial of all the efficiency of God's grace in our conversion, and the subjecting of the working of the Almighty God to the will of man, which is contrary to the Apostles, who teach: "That God fulfills every desire of goodness and every work of faith with power" (II Thess. 1:11). And: "That his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain to life and godliness" (II Pet. 1:3).

r. III, IV, Rejection of Errors, 9.

The true doctrine having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those who teach: That grace and free will are partial causes, which together work the beginning of conversion, and, that grace, in order of working, does not precede the working of the will; that is, God does not efficiently help the will of man unto conversion until the will of man moves and determines to do this. For the ancient church has long ago condemned this doctrine of the Pelagians according to the words of the Apostle: "So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that hath mercy" (Rom. 9:16). Likewise: "For who maketh thee to differ? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive?" (I Cor. 4:7) And: "For it is God who worketh in you both to will and to work, for his good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13).

4. The Westminster Confession of Faith

a. Chapter III. Of God's Eternal Decree.

Article 6. As God hath appointed the elect unto glory, so hath He, by the eternal and most free purpose of His will, foreordained all the means thereunto. Wherefore, they who are elected, being fallen in Adam, are redeemed in Christ, are effectually called unto faith in Christ by His Spirit working in due season, are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by his power, through faith, unto salvation. Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified and saved, but the elect only.
Jn. 17:9Rom. 8:28ff.; Jn 6:64, 65; 10:26; 8:47; I Jn. 2:19

b. Chapter VIII. Of Christ the Mediator.

Article 8. To all those for whom Christ hath purchased redemption, He doth certainly and effectually apply and communicate the same; making intercession for them, and revealing unto them, in and by the Word, the mysteries of salvation; effectually persuading them by His Spirit to believe and obey, and governing their hearts by His Word and Spirit; overcoming all their enemies by His almighty power and wisdom, in such manner, and ways, as are most consonant to His wonderful and unsearchable dispensation.
Jn. 6:37, 39;10:15, 16; I Jn. 2:1, 2Rom. 8:34Jn. 15:13, 15; Eph. 1:7-9Jn. 17:6; 14:16; Heb. 12:2II Cor. 4:13Rom. 8:9, 14; 15:18, 19; Jn. 17:17.

c. Chapter IX. Of Free Will.

Article 3. Man, by his fall into a state of sin, hath wholly lost all ability of will to spiritual good accompanying salvation: so as, a natural man, being altogether averse from that good, and dead in sin, is not able by his own strength, to convert himself or to prepare himself thereunto.
Rom. 5:6; 8:7; Jn. 15:5Rom. 3:10, 12Eph. 2:1, 5Col. 2:13Jn. 6:44, 65Eph. 2:2-5I Cor. 2:14Tit. 3:3-5.
Article 4. When God converts a sinner, and translates him into the state of grace, He frees him from his natural bondage under sin; and by his grace alone, enables him freely to will and to do that which is spiritually good; yet so, as that by reason of his remaining corruption, he doth not perfectly, nor only will that which is good, but doth also will that which is evil.
Col. 1:13Jn. 8:34, 36; Phil. 2:13; Rom. 6:18, 22Gal. 5:17Rom. 7:15, 18-20, 23.
Article 5. The will of man is made perfectly and immutably free to do good alone in the state of glory only.
Eph. 4:13Heb. 12:23I Jn. 3:2Jude 24.

5. The Westminster Larger Catechism

Question and Answer 59.

Who are made partakers of redemption through Christ?
Redemption is certainly applied, and effectually communicated, to all those for whom Christ hath purchased it; who are in time by the Holy Ghost enabled to believe in Christ according to the gospel.
Eph. 1:13, 14Jn. 6:37, 39; 10:15, 16; Eph. 2:8II Cor. 4:13

F. The Perseverance of Saints

1. The Heidelberg Catechism

a. Lord's Day I, Question and Answer 1.

What is thy only comfort in life and death?
That I am not my own but belong unto my faithful Savior Jesus Christ; who, with his precious blood, hath fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, and therefore, by his Holy Spirit, he also assures me of eternal life, and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto him.
I Cor. 6:19, 20Rom. 14:7-9I Cor. 3:23I Pet. 1:18, 19I Jn. 1:7; 3:8; Heb. 2:14, 15Jn. 6:39; 10:28, 29; Luke 21:18Matt. 10:30Rom. 8:28II Cor. 1:22; 5:5; Rom. 8:14; 7:22.

b. Lord's Day XII, Question and Answer 31.

Why is he called Christ, that is anointed?
Because he is ordained of God the Father, and anointed with the Holy Ghost, to be our chief Prophet and Teacher, who has fully revealed to us the secret counsel and will of God concerning our redemption; and to be our only High Priest, who by the one sacrifice of his body, has redeemed us, and makes continual intercession with the Father for us; and also to be our eternal King, who governs us by his word and Spirit, and who defends and preserves us in (the enjoyment of) that salvation, he has purchased for us.
Heb. 1:9Deut. 18:18Acts 3:22Jn. 1:18; 15:15; Matt. 11:27Ps. 110:4Heb. 7:21; 10:14; Rom. 8:34Ps. 2:6Luke 1:33Matt. 28:18Jn. 10:28.

c. Lord's Day XVIII, Question and Answer 49.

Of what advantage is Christ's ascension into heaven?
First, that he is our advocate in the presence of his Father in heaven; secondly, that we have our flesh in heaven as a sure pledge that he, as head, will also take up to himself, us, his members; thirdly, that he sends us his Spirit as an earnest, by whose power we "seek the things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God, and not things on earth."
Heb. 9:24I Jn. 2:2Rom. 8:34Jn. 14:2Eph. 2:6Jn. 14:16II Cor. 1:22; 5:5; Col. 3:1; Phil. 3:20.

d. Lord's Day XIX, Question and Answer 51.

What profit is this glory (of his exaltation) of Christ, our head, to us?
First that by his Holy Spirit he pours out heavenly graces upon us his members; and then that by his power he defends and preserves us against all enemies.
Eph. 4:8Ps. 2:9Jn. 10:28.

e. Lord's Day XXI, Question and Answer 54.

What believest thou concerning the "holy catholic church" of Christ?
That the Son of God from the beginning to the end of the world, gathers, defends, and preserves to himself by his Spirit and word, out of the whole human race, a church chosen to everlasting life, agreeing in true faith; and that I am and forever shall remain, a living member thereof.
Jn. 10:11Gen. 26:4Rom. 9:24Eph. 1:10Jn. 10:16; Is. 59:21; Deut. 10:14, 15Acts 13:48I Cor. 1:8, 9Rom. 8:35ff

f. Lord's Day XXII, Question and Answer 58.

What comfort takest thou from the article of "life everlasting?"
That since I now feel in my heart the beginning of eternal joy, after this life, I shall inherit perfect salvation, which "eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man" to conceive, and that, to praise God therein for ever.
II Cor. 5:2, 3, 6Rom. 14:17Ps. 10:11I Cor. 2:9.

g. Lord's Day LII, Question and Answer 127.

Which is the sixth petition (of the Lord's Prayer)?
"And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil"; that is, since we are so weak in ourselves, that we cannot stand a moment; and besides this, since our mortal enemies, the devil, the world, and our own flesh, cease not to assault us, do thou therefore preserve and strengthen us by the power of thy Holy Spirit, that we may not be overcome in this spiritual warfare, but constantly and strenuously may resist our foes, till at last we obtain a complete victory.
Matt. 6:13Rom. 8:26Ps. 103:14I Pet. 5:8Eph. 6:12Jn. 15:19Rom. 7:23Gal. 5:17Mat. 26:41Mark 13:33I Thess. 3:13; 5:23.

2. The Belgic Confession

Article XXVII. Of the Catholic Christian Church.

We believe and profess, one catholic or universal Church, which is an holy congregation, of true Christian believers, all expecting their salvation in Jesus Christ, being washed by his blood, sanctified and sealed by the Holy Ghost. This Church hath been from the beginning of the world, and will be to the end thereof; which is evident from this, that Christ is an eternal King, which, without subjects, cannot be. And this holy Church is preserved or supported by God, against the rage of the whole world; though she sometimes (for a while) appears very small, and in the eyes of men, to be reduced to nothing: as during the perilous reign of Ahab, the Lord reserved unto him seven thousand men, who had not bowed their knees to Baal. Furthermore, this holy Church is not confined, bound, or limited to a certain place or to certain persons, but is spread and dispersed over the whole world; and yet is joined and united with heart and will, by the same power of faith, in one and the same spirit. 

3. The Canons of Dordt

a. I, 7.

This elect number, though by nature neither better nor more deserving than others, but with them involved in one common misery, God hath decreed to give to Christ, to be saved by him, and effectually to call and draw them to his communion by his Word and Spirit, to bestow upon them true faith, justification and sanctification; and having powerfully preserved them in the fellowship of his Son, finally to glorify them for the demonstration of his mercy, and for the praise of his glorious grace; as it is written: "According as he hath chosen us in him, before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy, and without blame before him in love; having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved" (Eph. 1:4-6). And elsewhere: "Whom he did predestinate, them he also called, and whom he called, them he also justified, and whom he justified them he also glorified" (Rom. 8:30). 

b. I, 11.

And as God himself is most wise, unchangeable, omniscient, and omnipotent, so the election made by him can neither be interrupted nor changed, recalled or annulled; neither can the elect be cast away, nor their number diminished.

c. I, Rejection of Errors, 6.

The true doctrine concerning Election and Rejection having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those who teach: That not every election unto salvation is unchangeable, but that some of the elect, any decree of God notwithstanding, can yet perish and do indeed perish. By which gross error they make God to be changeable, and destroy the comfort which the godly obtain out of the firmness of their election, and contradict the Holy Scripture, which teaches, that the elect can not be led astray (Matt. 24:24); that Christ does not lose those whom the Father gave him (Jn. 6:39); and that God hath also glorified those whom he foreordained, called, and justified (Rom. 8:30).

These articles from the Canons are especially valuable because they demonstrate the connection between unconditional election and the perseverance of saints, just as the next article shows the connection between perseverance and limited atonement.

d. II, 8.

For this was the sovereign counsel, and most gracious will and purpose of God the Father, that the quickening and saving efficacy of the death of his Son should extend to all the elect, for bestowing upon them alone the gift of justifying faith, thereby to bring them infallibly to salvation: that is, it was the will of God, that Christ by the blood of the cross, whereby he confirmed the new covenant, should effectually redeem out of every people, tribe, nation, and language, all those, and those only, who were from eternity chosen to salvation, and given to him by the Father; that he should confer upon them faith, which together with all the other saving gifts of the Holy Spirit, he purchased for them by his death; should purge them from all sin, both original and actual, whether committed before or after believing; and having faithfully preserved them even to the end, should at last bring them free from every spot and blemish to the enjoyment of glory in his own presence forever.

The remaining articles are from Chapter V, the chapter on perseverance. 

e. V, 3.

By reason of these remains of indwelling sin, and the temptations of sin and of the world, those who are converted could not persevere in a state of grace, if left to their own strength. But God is faithful, who having conferred grace, mercifully confirms, and powerfully preserves them therein, even to the end.

f. V, 6.

But God, who is rich in mercy, according to his unchangeable purpose of election, does not wholly withdraw the Holy Spirit from his own people, even in their melancholy falls; nor suffers them to proceed so far as to lose the grace of adoption, and forfeit the state of justification, or to commit the sin unto death; nor does he permit them to be totally deserted, and to plunge themselves into everlasting destruction.

g. V, 7.

For in the first place, in these falls he preserves in them the incorruptible seed of regeneration from perishing, or being totally lost; and again, by his Word and Spirit, certainly and effectually renews them to repentance, to a sincere and godly sorrow for their sins, that they may seek and obtain remission in the blood of the Mediator, may again experience the favor of a reconciled God, through faith adore his mercies, and henceforward more diligently work out their own salvation with fear and trembling. 

h. V, 8.

Thus, it is not in consequence of their own merits, or strength, but of God's free mercy, that they do not totally fall from faith and grace, nor continue and perish finally in their backslidings; which with respect to themselves is not only possible, but would undoubtedly happen; but with respect to God, it is utterly impossible, since his counsel cannot be changed, nor his promise fail, neither can the call according to his purpose be revoked, nor the merit, intercession, and preservation of Christ, be rendered ineffectual, nor the sealing of the Holy Spirit be frustrated or obliterated. 

i. V, Rejection of Errors, 3.

The true doctrine having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those who teach: That the true believers and regenerate not only can fall from justifying faith and likewise from grace and salvation wholly and to the end, but indeed often do fall from this and are lost forever. For this conception makes powerless the grace, justification, regeneration, and continued keeping by Christ, contrary to the expressed words of the Apostle Paul: "That while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. Much more then, being justified by his blood, shall we be saved from the wrath of God through him" (Rom. 5:8, 9). And contrary to the Apostle John: "Whosoever is begotten of God doeth no sin, because his seed abideth in him; and he cannot sin, because he is begotten of God" (I Jn. 3:9). And also contrary to the words of Jesus Christ: "I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand. My Father who hath given them to me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand" (Jn. 10:28, 29).

4. The Westminster Confession of Faith

Chapter XVII. Of the Perseverance of Saints.

Article 1. They whom God hath accepted in His Beloved, effectually called, and sanctified by His Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved.
Phil. 1:6; II Pet. 1:10Jn. 10:28, 29I Jn. 3:9I Pet. 1:5, 9.
Article 2. This perseverance of the saints depends not upon their own free will, but upon the immutability of the decree of election, flowing from the free and unchangeable love of God the Father; upon the efficacy of the merit and intercession of Jesus Christ, the abiding of the Spirit, and of the seed of God within them, and the nature of the covenant of grace: from all which ariseth also the certainty and infallibility thereof.
II Tim. 2:18, 19Jer. 31:3Heb. 10:10, 14; 13:20, 21; 9:12, 13-15; Rom. 8:33-39Jn. 17:11, 24Luke 22:32Heb. 7:25Jn. 14:16, 17I Jn. 2:27; 3:9; Jer. 32:40Jn. 10:28II Thess. 3:3I Jn. 2:19.

5 The Westminster Larger Catechism

a. Question and Answer 79.

May not true believers, by reason of their imperfections, and the many temptations and sins they are overtaken with, fall away from a state of grace?
True believers, by reason of the unchangeable love of God, and His decree and covenant to give them perseverance, their inseparable union with Christ, His continual intercession for them, and the Spirit and seed of God abiding in them, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace, but are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.
Jer. 31:3II Tim. 2:19Heb. 13:20, 21II Sam. 23:5I Cor. 1:8, 9Heb. 7:25Luke 22:32I Jn. 3:9; 2:27; Jer. 32:40Jn. 10:28I Pet. 1:5.

b. Question and Answer 80.

Can true believers be infallibly assured that they are in a state of grace, and that they shall persevere therein unto salvation?
Such as truly believe in Christ, and endeavor to walk in all good conscience before him, may, without extraordinary revelation, by faith grounded upon the truth of God's promises, and by the Spirit enabling them to discern in themselves those graces to which the promises of life are made, and bearing witness with their spirits that they are the children of God, be infallibly assured that they are in the estate of grace, and shall persevere therein unto salvation.
I Jn. 2:3I Cor. 2;12; I Jn. 3:14, 18, 19, 21, 24; 4:13, 16; Heb. 6:11, 12Rom. 8:16I Jn. 5:13.

Recommended Reading

The following list of books is recommended to those who might be interested in further study of the doctrines of grace. The list is not intended to be exhaustive but nevertheless fairly comprehensive. Some of the books are currently in print, others are not. Recommendation of a book is not to be understood as endorsement of every idea set forth by its author.

Best, W.E. Free Grace Versus Free Will. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1977, 53 pages.

Boettner, Loraine. The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination. Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1978, 440 pages.

Buis, Harry. Historic Protestantism and Predestination. Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1958, 142 pages.

Calvin, John. Calvin's Calvinism: Treatise on the Eternal Predestination of God and the Secret Providence of God. Translated by Henry Cole. Grand Rapids: Reformed Free Publishing Association, (no date), 354 pages.

Clark, Gordon H. Biblical Predestination. Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1969, 155 pages.

Coles, Elisha. God's Sovereignty. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1979, 298 pages.

Coppes, Leonard H. Are Five Points Enough? The Ten Points of Calvinism. Manassas: Reformation Educational Foundation, 1980, 197 pages.

Engelsma, David J. Hyper-Calvinism and the Call of the Gospel. Grand Rapids: Reformed Free Publishing Association, 1980, 216 pages.

Girardeau, John L. Calvinism and Evangelical Arminianism Compared as to Election, Reprobation, Justification, and Related Doctrines. Harrisonburg: Sprinkle Publications, 1984, 574 pages.

Luther, Martin. The Bondage of the Will. Translated by J.I. Packer and O.R. Johnston. Westwood: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1957, 320 pages.

McNeill, John T. The History and Character of Calvinism. London: Oxford University Press, 1973, 470 pages.

Ness, Christopher. An Antidote to Arminiamism. North Hollywood: Puritan Heritage Publications, 1978, 90 pages.

Palmer, Edwin H. The Five Points of Calvinism. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1972, 109 pages.

Pink, Arthur W. The Sovereignty of God. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1963, 322 pages.

Reid, W. Stanford, ed. John Calvin: His Influence in the Western World. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1982, 415 pages.

Spencer, Duane Edward. TULIP: The Five Points of Calvinism in the Light of Scripture. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1979, 77 pages.

Sproul, R.C. Chosen by God. Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers Inc., 1986, 213 pages.

Steele, David N. and Curtis C. Thomas. The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, Documented. Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1963, 95 pages.

Thornwell, James Henly. Election and Reprobation. Jackson: Presbyterian Reformation Society, 1961, 97 pages.

Warburton, Ben A. Calvinism: Its History and Basic Principles, Its Fruits and Its Future, and Its Practical Application to Life. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1955, 249 pages.

Zanchius, Jerom. The Doctrine of Absolute Predestination. Translated by Augustus M. Toplady. Grand Rapids: Baker Bok House, 1977, 170 pages.

Chapter 6 - The Perseverance of the Saints

The last of the Five Points of Calvinism is represented by the letter P in the word TULIP and is the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. This doctrine deals with the question whether those who are once brought to faith and salvation will continue in faith and in that salvation to the very end or, in other words, whether those who once believe will finally and surely go to heaven.

There are some who call themselves Calvinists who have reservations about this doctrine and some who reject it altogether, though they may accept some or all of the rest of the Five Points. In some cases this is due to a misunderstanding of the doctrine, and it is our hope and prayer that this presentation of the doctrine will not contribute to those misunderstandings but rather make as clear as possible what the Bible teaches.

A. The Name

There are three different names that are used for this doctrine. 

1. The perseverance of saints.

The name used in the original Five Points of Calvinism, the Canons of Dordt, is the perseverance of the saints. This name, as we shall see, emphasizes the responsibility of every believer to continue or "persevere" in faith and holiness.

2. The preservation of saints.

Many Calvinists prefer to speak of the preservation of the saints because this name emphasizes the same thing that the other points emphasize, i.e., the sovereignty of God in salvation and the truth that salvation is all of grace from beginning to end. The emphasis of this name, then, would be on the fact that God "preserves" all those whom He has chosen and redeemed and in whose hearts He has worked by the power of His irresistible grace.

3. Eternal security.

The third name that is used for this doctrine is eternal security. This name emphasizes the comfort that believers receive from this doctrine, that is, that they are secure in their salvation not only through this life but into eternity.

It is worthwhile knowing all three of these names because they all emphasize important facets of this doctrine, all of which we will be talking about as we study the doctrine here.

B. The Doctrine

Whatever name is used for this doctrine, it teaches that all those who receive salvation can never again lose it or fall away from it, i.e., "once saved, always saved." The words perseverance, preservation, and eternal security all emphasize this.

1. Saints.

When we speak of the perseverance or preservation of saints, then we are emphasizing the truth that those who are saved persevere to the end as a result of the grace of God, not as a result of their own strength or works, but always in the way of real, personal holiness.

The name saints when it is applied to believers (as it is in almost all of the epistles of Paul, i.e., Rom. 1:7I Cor. 1:2II Cor. 1:1Eph. 1:1; Phil. 1:1; etc.) is a name that refers to their holiness. The name, in fact, means holy ones. And it is very important for our discussion that the doctrine is not just called perseverance, or preservation, but the perseverance or preservation of saints. It is important, first of all, because it reminds us of the real issue. The question raised by this doctrine is not just whether or not the Bible teaches that a person once saved is always saved but also what the Bible teaches about saints. Our definition of a saint will probably determine whether or not we believe in this doctrine and how we interpret the teaching of the Scriptures. If a saint is a self-made person, i.e., one who has made himself holy or who is able to be holy by his own strength, then, obviously, whether or not he will always be holy also depends on him and whether or not he will continue to make himself holy.

The Bible, however, indicates that saints are holy only by the grace of God, that they are only sinners of themselves and have no natural holiness or power to be holy, thus teaching us that it is God Who makes saints. Then, too, it is clear that if saints are made such by God, their continuing in holiness also depends on Him and on His grace and not on themselves.

If you define a saint, therefore, as one who is chosen unconditionally from eternity, whose sins are fully paid for by the blood of the atonement, and who is inwardly regenerated and renewed by the irresistible power of the Holy Spirit, then it is impossible to believe in anything else but the preservation and perseverance of that same saint.

2. Preservation.

It is exactly this that the name preservation of saints emphasizes - that God by His grace and in His goodness, sovereignly and eternally preserves those in whose hearts He has begun to work and finally brings them to glory in Christ. From this point of view, the doctrine is only an extension of the doctrine of irresistible grace, for it is exactly that irresistible grace which preserves and keeps safe God's saints and brings them to glory. To deny this is to teach that God's work can come to nothing and His power be thwarted, in other words, that His grace is not after all irresistible.

3. Perseverance.

However, that God sovereignly preserves His chosen and redeemed saints does not take away their responsibility to live holy and thankful lives. True Calvinism has never taught this and never will. God does preserve His people in salvation but always in such a way that they also persevere in holiness. That is why the Canons of Dordt use the name perseverance of saints: to make it as clear as possible that this doctrine does not give His saints the excuse to be anything but saints in their conduct. It is emphatically saints who are preserved by the grace of God. Those who are unholy, wicked, and profane do not and cannot have the hope of being preserved.

4. Falling but no falling away.

On the other hand, this doctrine does not mean that God's saints never fall into sin or temptation. The very names that are used, preservation and perseverance, imply that God's people are surrounded by spiritual dangers and enemies and that they themselves are always liable to fall into temptation and to be overcome by their enemies, the devil, the wicked world, and their own sinfulness. All the doctrine means is that as far as God is concerned, He never allows them to fall away completely or to lose their salvation but always brings them back. As far as they are concerned, it means that they, by the grace of God, always come again to repentance and begin anew the struggle to be holy. The parables of the lost sheep and of the prodigal son are illustrations of what this doctrine teaches, the former parable teaching especially the preserving power of God in and through Jesus Christ, our Shepherd and the latter parable demonstrating our repentance and spiritual renewal.

In summary, then, this doctrine teaches the following:

a. That saints are such by election, the atonement, and sovereign grace.

b. That they cannot, therefore, be lost.

c. That this assurance of eternal salvation does not remove the obligation they have to live as saints in the world, holy and obedient.

d. That they must be preserved and persevere exactly because of their own weakness and sinfulness and because of their spiritual enemies, the devil and the wicked world.

C. Scripture Passages

As always, it is necessary to show that this doctrine is biblical, as indeed it is, being taught both in the Old and the New Testaments. 

1. Passages which speak of preservation.

a. Psalm 37:23, 24. The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand.

This passage reminds us that it is possible for God's people to fall into sin and temptation but in contrast to that also speaks of the impossibility of their falling away completely and ascribes this not only to the power of God but to His eternal decree ("his steps are ordered by the Lord").

b. Psalm 37:28. For the Lord loveth judgment, and forsaketh not his saints; they are preserved forever: but the seed of the wicked shall be cut off.

This passage not only speaks both of preservation and of the fact that it is the saints who are preserved but also indicates that this all depends on God. The saints are "His," and they are preserved because God in His faithfulness does not forsake them, and He does not forsake them because He is righteous. 

c. Isaiah 45:17. But Israel shall be saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation: ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded world without end.

Perhaps even more important than the passage itself here is the context which grounds the assurance of salvation in the power of God and insists (v. 19) that to say otherwise would make God's call powerless, and He Himself unrighteous and a liar, for He would then be promising what He Himself was unable to give.

d. Isaiah 49:16. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.

Not only does this passage connect election and preservation in a most beautiful way, as though the names of God's people are actually engraved in the palms of His hands but assures God's people of this in answer to their fears. This verse is an answer to Zion's complaint: "The Lord hath forsaken me, and my God hath forgotten me" (v. 14).

e. Jeremiah 32:40. And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, and they shall not turn away from me.

This passage is particularly important because it makes Israel's restoration after the captivity a figure and type of the preservation of the church in every age, assuring the people of God that the fruit of God's grace to them will be that they will not turn away from Him. That, clearly, shows the connection between the grace of God which preserves and the resultant perseverance of the saints. 

f. Luke 22:31, 32. And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.

Here Christ not only assures Peter, and with him everyone of us, that He will pray for Peter in time of temptation, knowing already what will happen, but also tells Peter that even when he falls he will be converted in answer to Jesus' prayer.

g. John 3:16. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Strangely enough, this passage, which is so often quoted by those who believe salvation depends on the choice of man's own will whether or not he will believe and whether he will continue to believe and have everlasting life actually teaches the very opposite, that is, that those who believe shall not perish, but by virtue of their faith have everlasting life, which we know is a gift of God (Rom. 6:23). Similar passages are John 3:36 and 5:24.

h. John 6:39. And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.

Here Jesus not only shows the connection between election and the atonement (He actually saves [does not lose] all those whom the Father gave Him and does that according to the Father's own will) but also the connection between both of those doctrines and preservation (those whom the Father gave Him and whom He does not lose shall also be raised up again in the last day). This passage, then, is a very beautiful and powerful reminder that the guarantee of perseverance and eternal security is not our faithfulness but God's grace in election and in the cross.

i. John 10:27-29. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand.

Not only does this passage ground the preservation of saints in election ("I know them") and in the almighty power of God which cannot be thwarted ("My Father ... is greater than all"), but read in the context of the whole chapter which speaks of Jesus as the Shepherd of the sheep, it also shows that these sheep are preserved and must be preserved because the blood of the Good Shepherd was shed for them. Notice, too, that all this involves the sheep's following Jesus. They are not preserved to walk their own way but unto holiness of life and obedience to Jesus.

j. John 17:11, 24. And now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.
Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world. 

This passage is especially important in light of Luke 22:32 which shows that Jesus' prayers on behalf of His people are surely answered. Here Jesus is not only praying that His people may be preserved in the world (v. 11) but also for their final heavenly glory. Thus the preservation of saints is founded also on the perfect intercession of Christ, which would be revealed as powerless and ineffectual if they were not kept.

k. Romans 8:35-39. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

This passage assures believers of three things, first, that persecution and other such trials will not cause them to be separated from Christ; second, that neither will spiritual powers, including the devil himself be able to do that; and third, that this is true because of the love of God in Christ, which the context says is revealed in the death of Christ, in His resurrection and intercession, and in our justification before God. So, once again, the passage shows so very clearly that for saints to fall away, the cross and intercession of Christ would have to be made of none effect and the love and grace of God become powerless.

l. I Corinthians 1:7-9. So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful by whom ye were called in the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

That we are confirmed unto the end is simply an evidence of the faithfulness of God Who called us. For us not to be confirmed unto the end and unto blamelessness would be unfaithfulness on God's part, not just to us, but to Himself and His own work, for He called us.

m. II Corinthians 4:8. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. 

Here is another passage which shows that the perseverance of the saints does not mean that God's people are preserved from all troubles, trials, and temptations but only that God protects them in their tribulations and brings them safely through.

n. Philippians 1:6. Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.

Here again, the perseverance of saints is ascribed to the faithfulness of God and the work of God. That salvation is of grace at the beginning means that it is all of grace and shall certainly be finished in all those in whom it is begun.

o. II Timothy 2:19. Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, let everyone that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.

This assured statement is made in the face of the evil work of those who had been troubling the church and had even "overthrown the faith of some." The Word of God means to say, therefore, that whatever had happened to those whose faith was "overthrown," they were never the Lord's, and the only conclusion one can come to, then, is that their faith also was only a sham, what is sometimes called a "temporary faith."

Even more significant is the fact that the seal, or assurance that God's work will not come to nothing or be overthrown, is not only election ("the Lord knoweth them that are His") but our sanctification ("let everyone that nameth the name of the Lord depart from iniquity"). This does not mean that we are preserved by our good works but that we have the assurance of preservation through good works and cannot be preserved except in the way of good works and holiness.

p. II Timothy 4:18. And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

There is no one who would dare to say this if his future glory depended in any way on himself and no one who would be able to say it if he did not know that God in His faithfulness does preserve His people.

q. Hebrews 7:25. Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.

This is another passage which connects our preservation and Christ's intercession. But remember that it is not only Christ's prayers that go unanswered if any of those who are once saved fall away but also that His blood is valueless for it is on the basis of His blood that He makes intercession for His people.

r. Hebrews 10:14. For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.

The point of this passage is simply that it is Christ's sacrifice which assures every child of God once saved of reaching perfection. That means that Christ's death is indeed powerful to save (not just making salvation a possibility) and also that it is powerful to earn for His people every blessing of salvation including eternal life and glory.

s. I Peter 1:5. Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

This passage, too, not only speaks plainly of preservation ("who are kept by the power of God") but shows again that preservation and the assurance of preservation in no way detract from or take away the calling to believe and do the works of a living faith. Those who are kept are kept through faith, and that is the only way they can or will be kept.

t. I Peter 1:23. Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever.

This particular passage is important because it speaks of regeneration, and of the fact that the seed, whatever that may be, by which we are born again, is incorruptible and abides forever.

2. Passages which speak of perseverance.

Many of the passages at which we have already looked show the connection between God's preservation and our persevering and make it very clear that God does not preserve His people without also giving them grace and strength to persevere in holiness and obedience. There are a number of passages, however, which emphasize our calling to persevere and since the doctrine is usually called the perseverance of the saints, it is good that those passages also be added to ones we have already cited.

a. Genesis 18:19. For I know him that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.

Here God speaks of Abraham's obedience as the way in which he will fulfill the promises He made to Abraham and speaks also of the certainty of Abraham's continuing in obedience.

b. Psalm 119:33. Teach me, O Lord, the way of thy statutes; and I shall keep it unto the end.

Not only does David express in this passage his confidence that he will persevere in the keeping of God's law until the end but ascribes this to the grace of God which teaches him those commandments. This illustrates, therefore, the teaching that perseverance is by the grace of God and not by works, though it results in a life of good works.

c. I John 3:2, 3. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.

There is probably no other text in the Scriptures which speaks so plainly, on the one hand, of the fact that once being made sons of God we have the certain assurance that we shall someday be like Christ and shall see Him as He is, and on the other hand, of the fact that this hope does not beget carelessness and carnality but rather holiness and purity.

d. I John 5:18. We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.

This passage not only shows that the devil can no more overcome those who are regenerated but also that the regenerated can no more commit the unpardonable sin. That is the sin about which John is talking here, as is clear from verses 16 and 17, though he calls it the sin unto death. And certainly if the regenerated child of God cannot commit the sin unto death, he cannot fall away from God. Rather he will keep himself, or persevere, even though the whole world lies in wickedness.

Also, it should be emphasized once again, that the many commands in the Scriptures to continue and persevere, to be holy and continue holy, do not imply that the child of God, redeemed by the blood of Christ and regenerated by the Holy Spirit, can fall away from grace and salvation and go lost. They only imply that he can fall, even fall very grievously. Nor do they imply that the doctrine of perseverance encourages careless, immoral, unholy living by Christians. In fact, these many commands, instead of implying that he can fall away and be lost or be and remain a carnal Christian, are exactly what God uses both to keep him from falling away and from becoming careless.

D. Difficult Passages

There are a number of Scripture passages which are often cited as contradicting the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. Before we look at these passages individually, there are several comments that need to be made that apply to them all in general.

First, it cannot be denied that these passages do speak of persons "falling away" and perishing, even of their faith being "overthrown."

Second, it cannot be that the Word of God contradicts itself. Either the Word teaches perseverance or it does not. And we do well at this point to remember that mere preponderance of passages which speak of God's faithfulness and of the power of Christ and of the Holy Spirit as the guarantees of continued and eternal salvation would indicate that the Scriptures do teach the perseverance of the saints. The passages which might seem to contradict this are only a few.

Third, all these passages which are used to teach a "falling away of saints" can be answered by one passage of Scripture, I John 2:19; "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us."

I John 2:19 clearly teaches that those who fall away were never really part of the body of believers or of the faith, though it may have appeared for a time that they were. The very fact that they fall away, if indeed they fall away finally and forever, is proof that they never had a part or place in the kingdom of heaven and were never partakers of the saving grace of God in Christ Jesus. They never were elect, never were purchased by the blood, never did receive the Holy Spirit and regeneration, never were justified or sanctified, and never had the gift of holiness. They were the stony and thorny soil and the wayside in the parable of Jesus, and the Word, however it affected them, never had root or fruit.

With that in mind the passages which are quoted against the doctrine of perseverance can easily be reconciled with it.

1. I Samuel 10:6.

This passage speaks of King Saul's receiving the Holy Spirit and even says he would prophesy and be turned into another man. This is sometimes used to contradict the perseverance of saints in light of the rest of the story of Saul which shows him becoming more and more wicked and finally dying in his sins.

We should remember several things about Saul, however. (1) That the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of prophecy was sometimes given to those who were not saved. The best examples are Balaam and Caiaphas. Thus, the fact that Saul prophesied does not prove him a child of God. (2) The Holy Spirit gives other gifts besides the blessings of salvation, and He certainly did give to Saul the gift of courage and zeal, both of which were necessary for his work as king (cf. 11:6). This is very likely all that Samuel meant when he said that Saul would become another man, since Saul was originally too fearful and cowardly to assume the duties of the kingdom (10:21, 22). (3) There is no indication in the Scriptures that Saul had any of the marks of regeneration. He never showed any signs of true repentance, even in the beginning, nor any zeal for God. (4) In fact, the testimony of the Scriptures leads us in the opposite direction and seems to indicate that Saul was not only an unregenerated person but was known as such in Israel, so that this prophesying became a byword among the people for anything out of character (cf. 10:11, 12).

2. Galatians 5:4.

Here is a passage which actually uses the words "fallen from grace." Paul is speaking here to those who wanted to make circumcision a condition for salvation and for membership in the Christian church, and he tells them that if this is what they believe then not only is Christ become of no effect to them but they are fallen from grace.

The correct explanation of this passage is very simple. Paul is not saying that these people once received the grace of God and have now lost it and are perishing, but that they, by their belief in salvation through law-works, have separated themselves from salvation by grace and from the cross of Christ. They stand by their own teaching as those for whom the cross is of "none effect" and to whom grace is meaningless.

3. II Timothy 2:18.

This is the passage that refers to the faith of some being overthrown by the false teaching of Hymanaeus and Philetus. There are two things that must be remembered here: (1) in the very next verse the Word of God assures us that the Lord knows them that are His and at least implies that those who are His cannot be overthrown, and (2) that the Scriptures do speak of a faith which is not a true and saving faith (Matt. 13:19-21James 2:14-20). That is the only kind of faith which can be overthrown, for true faith is a gift and work of God. Those, then, of whom the Scriptures are speaking here are also those who never had true faith, whom the Lord never knew and who were never of the company of true believers and never departed from iniquity. They were hypocrites.

4. Hebrews 6:4-6.

This passage is probably most often used to teach a falling away of saints, since it speaks of those who were enlightened, tasted of the heavenly gift, were made partakers of the Holy Spirit, tasted the good word of God and the powers of the world to come, and who yet fall away and not only are not but cannot be renewed to repentance.

Again, it should be remembered here that the Holy Spirit gives other gifts and does other works than salvation, and for the rest, that it is not impossible for an unbelieving person to see, at least intellectually and emotionally the blessedness of salvation, to the extent that he even feigns faith and obedience (Matt. 13:19-21Acts 8:9-23; 26:28). Also, it may not be forgotten that this passage, rather than teaching that it is possible to come to be saved over and over again, instead teaches the impossibility of renewing to repentance these people who are described here. Finally, if this passage does indeed teach a falling away of saints, then it contradicts itself, for in verses 9-19 the chapter teaches the perseverance of saints, founding the hope of perseverance on the immutability of God's own counsel and oath.

We must conclude, therefore, that this passage also speaks of those who do come under the gospel and its call, who are taught the Scriptures, hear the promises, and perhaps even respond emotionally to the gospel, but who are nevertheless spiritually dead and never bear true fruit like the barren earth of which Hebrews 6:8 speaks. Rather, therefore, than teaching a falling away of saints, it speaks of terrible judgment that shall come on all those who hear the gospel and turn from it and of their greater damnation, and it stands as warning to all who hear.

5. Hebrews 10:26, 27.

This passage is sometimes interpreted as though it teaches that it is possible for sacrifice to be made once for a person's sins and then for that person through unbelief to lose that salvation and come under the judgment of God.

This is not what the text says, however. We should note that the passage very carefully speaks of "those who have received the knowledge of the truth" and does not say that sacrifice for sin was made for them. In fact, the word more in the KJV leaves an entirely wrong impression. The idea is not that there is no additional sacrifice for sin (over and above that which they have already received) but that there is no longer any possibility of sacrifice for sin for them. In other words, the passage is talking about those who commit what is sometimes known as the "unforgiveable sin," that is, those who with full knowledge of the truth wilfully reject it and who, by that, show themselves beyond any hope of salvation.

6. II Peter 2:1.

This passage, too, at first glance might be taken as contradicting the perseverance of the saints, and so it is sometimes quoted as though it says that some come to deny the Lord Who bought them. The passage then would be speaking of those who had been purchased by the blood of Christ, and who perhaps had even been brought to believe that but now deny it to their own condemnation and destruction.

It should be noted, however, that the text really says the opposite about these people. It not only calls them false teachers but says that they brought in, i.e., into the church, with them their damnable heresies. Nor is the idea of the passage that Christ bought them and now they deny Him but rather that their heresy is exactly that they deny the blood of atonement and that it was shed either for them or for anyone as the only way of salvation. Literally, the passage says that they deny "the Lord having bought them." And so the passage not only does not contradict the rest of the Scriptures but really does not speak to the matter of perseverance at all.

E. Objection

The chief objection that is brought against the doctrine of perseverance is that it leads to carelessness on the part of Christians, so that they are not as concerned about holiness and Christian living as they should be.

Against this objection stand all the passages cited above which show that the doctrine of perseverance is in no sense of the word a denial of our responsibility to be godly and holy in all our conduct and speech and even in our thoughts and motives.

It is interesting, though, that the Bible itself deals with this objection in several places. Both in Romans 3:5-8 and in Romans 6:1, 2 Paul deals with the idea that grace encourages sinning. That, of course, is a step beyond the idea that sovereign grace leaves a person without any reason to be holy. In this case, some were apparently saying that the doctrines of grace (including perseverance) were themselves a reason for sinning, since the more a person sins, the more God's grace is revealed.

The Bible deals very harshly with this idea and with those who taught it. In Romans 3:8 Paul says that those who say such things speak slander and will suffer just damnation. His answer in Romans 6:2 is by itself a sufficient answer to all who might think this. "God," Paul says, "forbids it."

But even in Romans 6, Paul goes on to explain what is really the answer of the Scriptures to all such objections, that is, that grace is one. The same grace by which we are chosen, redeemed, and preserved, also leads us inevitably to holiness by bringing us regeneration, sanctification, calling, and conversion. No one can have just part of that grace. He cannot possibly be chosen and justified without also being sanctified and made holy. If he has no holiness, the only possible explanation is that he is not chosen and redeemed either. There cannot possibly be such a thing as a "carnal Christian."

F. Denials

1. Roman Catholicism.

On the one hand, the Roman Catholic Church teaches that the grace of justification can be lost, and not just the assurance of justification. This, according to Roman Catholic teaching, is true to the extent that a man who has lost that grace must be justified all over again. In fact, one loses one's justification every time one commits a mortal sin and is re-justified through the sacrament of penance. It is also possible, according to Roman Catholic teaching, to lose even faith through infidelity, which is far more serious. This, of course, goes along with the Roman Catholic teaching of salvation by good works. If salvation is by works, then to cease from works is to lose salvation. The conclusion, therefore, of the Roman Catholic Church regarding perseverance is that though there is hope for it, there is no absolute certainty of it.

This clearly contradicts the teaching of the Scriptures, which found the certainty of perseverance not on our faithfulness and good works but on the grace and sovereignty of God.

On the other hand, the Roman Catholic Church encourages a false security by teaching a kind of automatic salvation merely through the receiving of the sacraments from the church. This is really a denial of the perseveranceof saints, since it encourages carelessness and wickedness.

2. Arminianism.

Arminianism, the false teaching against which the Five Points of Calvinism were originally formulated, teaches and has always taught that it is possible to be redeemed in Christ and regenerated by the Spirit and yet lose everything and perish everlastingly. Along with this, Arminianism teaches that it is possible not only for believers to commit the sin unto death, but also for those who have fallen away to be regenerated over again and even often again.

This not only contradicts those passages which clearly teach the perseverance of saints but even the passage which is most often used to defend a falling away of saints, Hebrews 6:1-4, which states that there is no renewing to repentance for those who fall away. It should not be forgotten, however, that this denial of perseverance is really rooted in a denial of unconditional election. If election is indeed unconditional, then it guarantees perseverance. If it depends on man's works or faith, then perseverance does also and is not guaranteed. Thus the difference between Arminianism and Calvinism is not just that one denies and the other accepts the doctrine of perseverance, but that they each have a different understanding of what a saint is. Arminianism views a saint as one who is such by his own faith and good works, while Calvinism looks at the saint as someone made such by God and only by God. This, of course, makes all the difference in the world, for if we are saints by our own faith and obedience, then our continuing as such depends on our faithfulness and continuance. If we are saints by the grace of God, then our persevering depends also upon that sure, faithful, infallible grace and only upon it.

I Peter 1:23 is especially important here because it shows that regeneration, the very first work of God's grace in us, is something that takes place through the planting of an incorruptible and ever-abiding seed.

3. Free will.

This teaching, that man has of himself a freewill to choose God and salvation and which views faith as an act of man's own will, is really just a form of Arminianism. Obviously, it has no room for any doctrine of perseverance, since if the faith by which we are saved is indeed an act of our own will, then whether or not we retain it also depends on our will, which can and does change. Only if salvation depends on God's will and not on man's can there be any security and hope of perseverance for saints.

4. Antinomianism.

This error is on the opposite side of the spectrum from Arminianism. This error teaches that because God preserves His people, because election is sure, and because the blood of the cross is efficacious, there is no urgency in the call to holiness and good works, and that it is possible that a Christian, chosen and redeemed, continue carnal and unholy, that he need not and even cannot do the good work of prayer and worshiping God, and that it is a repudiation of the doctrines of sovereign grace and perseverance to read and preach the law of God and call men to repentance, faith, holiness, and perseverance in the same.

The misunderstanding that leads to these errors is that the call to repentance, faith, and holiness implies that sinners in and of themselves have the ability to heed that call, whether it be the call to faith or the call to persevere in faith. That is not true, for the call of the gospel is powerful only to those who receive the Spirit and is heard by the rest only for their condemnation, not at all implying that they are able to heed it.

Even more important is the fact that the Scriptures flatly contradict this error. Not only do they teach generally that the doctrines of sovereign grace do not encourage or even allow for sin and carelessness (Rom. 6:1, 2) but also that the doctrine of perseverance does not do so either. I John 2:2, 3 teaches that most plainly: "He that hath this hope (of persevering to the end and seeing Christ) purifieth himself even as he is pure."

Rather similar is the popular teaching today that there is such a thing as a carnal Christian. This teaching arises out of an Arminian type of evangelism that is done with the altar call and which teaches the theology of salvation by "accepting Jesus" and which most often results neither in godliness nor even in faithful church membership. Thus in the interests of preserving the appearance of success which this kind of evangelism with its large numbers of "conversions" appears to have, this new class of Christians has been invented.

5. Perfectionism.

Perfectionism goes to the opposite extreme and denies entirely the need for God's preserving grace or for our persevering by that grace, because it teaches that it is possible, desirable, and even normal for a Christian to live a life that is free from sin altogether or at least from all known sin. Obviously, if the Christian has reached such a state of perfection, there is no sense anymore in talking about his being preserved or persevering.

Pentecostalism teaches this as does the pernicious idea of a "victorious Christian life." So does the "health and wealth" gospel, though from a little different viewpoint. The "health and wealth" gospel teaches that there is no need for perseverance because the Christian in this life is to be free from sickness, poverty, suffering, and trial. The "positive thinking" enthusiasts and all such who teach that the solution to life's problems is mental, psychological, or even physical, also entirely divorce perseverance from the grace of God and the struggle for holiness.

Not only is all this nonsense contrary to the experience of believers; not only does it destroy their peace when troubles and temptations do come; but it is also against the Word of God, which tells us in I Peter 4:18 that the righteous are scarcely saved, and which assures us in Romans 8:17 that only if we suffer with Christ will we be glorified with Him, and in all the passages which speak of temptations and trials of God's people. It is also flatly contradicted by the complaint of the apostle Paul in Romans 7:19: "for the good that I would (thus showing that he is even while he speaks a regenerated child of God) I do not: but the evil that I would not (thus also showing his regeneration, for no unregenerated person can will the good or hate evil as Paul does here) that I do."

G. Practical Importance

The doctrine of perseverance is a most valuable treasure of the church and of the people of God, not only because it so powerfully demonstrates the sovereignty of God in salvation, but also because it is full of practical implications.

1. Perseverance and prayer.

Because Calvinism teaches so strongly that preservation and perseverance are two sides of the same coin and that God preserves His people in such a way that they also must and do persevere and because Calvinism teaches that even our persevering is only by the grace of God, the doctrine of perseverance is another way of stressing the importance of prayer in the Christian life. That is so true that there is no hope of perseverance without prayer.

This is the teaching of the Canons in Chapter V, Article 4:

Although the weakness of the flesh cannot prevail against the power of God, who confirms and preserves true believers in a state of grace, yet 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; they must, therefore, be constant in watching and prayer, that they be not led into temptation. When these are neglected, they are not only liable to be drawn into great and heinous sins, by Satan, the world and the flesh, but sometimes by the righteous permission of God, actually fall into these evils. This, the lamentable fall of David, Peter, and other saints described in Holy Scripture, demonstrates.

Scripture confirms this in many places, notably in Matthew 26:41; "Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak."

2 Perseverance and the preaching of the gospel.

What is true of prayer is also true of the preaching. It is the other great means God uses to preserve and keep His people. The warnings, admonitions, and encouragements of His Word are designed exactly for that purpose. This means, then, that the doctrine of perseverance also magnifies the importance of the preaching of the gospel and its necessity in the lives of believers. This, of course, shows once again, that rather than destroying lively gospel preaching, the doctrines of grace make it necessary and give power to it.

That perseverance requires gospel preaching is clear from John 10:27, 28: "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand." Only through the preaching of the gospel do we hear the voice of Jesus and that is our hope of never perishing.

3. Perseverance and holiness.

Here again the calumnies of those who hate Calvinism are shown false. The doctrines of grace do not destroy holiness and promote carelessness and worldliness as some have charged. Rather, the call to perseverance is the call to holiness, and it makes no sense even to talk about perseverance except in terms of holiness, godliness, Christian piety, and faithful obedience.

Certainly we believe that God surely and infallibly preserves His people but only in the way of their persevering in holiness, so that without holiness, no one shall see the Lord (Heb. 12:14).

4. Perseverance and peace.

It should also be evident that only the doctrine of perseverance can give Christians any peace in the world. In view of the fact that they fight against principalities and powers and spiritual wickedness and in view of the fact that they themselves are sinful and weak, they know that there is no hope of glory for them apart from the grace of God. The doctrine of perseverance assures them that God is faithful and that He will not abandon or turn away from the work He has begun in them, though they themselves may feel that that work is very small.

A good example of this is to be found in the questioning of a person who is struggling to find assurance of salvation. The very fact that they are concerned and afraid is the fruit of God's saving grace working in them, and they can and must be told that God Himself will continue that work of grace and bring it to full fruit.

Also in persecution, in suffering, and in temptation, each one of God's people through the doctrine of perseverance may rest on the faithfulness and grace of God and know that nothing can separate him from God and from eternal life. That is the thing that must be emphasized, too. Believing in the doctrine of the perseverance of saints, one believes in God Himself, in His love and mercy and grace and unchangeableness and finds in them hope and peace.

H. Relation to the Other Four Points

In conclusion let us remember that the doctrine of perseverance is inseparably connected with the rest of the Five Points of Calvinism. The elect are preserved, and they are preserved both because God has chosen them and because Christ died for them. They need that preserving grace because in themselves they are totally depraved and can do no good and certainly not the great good of finding and obtaining life everlasting. That grace which God gives them is powerful and irresistible, so that not only their own sins but also the devil and the whole wicked world cannot prevent them from being saved with an everlasting salvation.

To deny the doctrine of perseverance is to say that God's counsel can be changed - that God Himself can change. It is to say that Christ groaned and bled and died on Calvary for nothing, that God's promise can fail, and that the gifts and calling of God can be revoked, and that by weak, sinful man himself. God forbid that it should be so. Thanks be to Him for the work of grace, sovereignly begun, sovereignly brought forward, and sovereignly finished.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Questions from the Study Guide to aid in understanding and review.

Chapter 5 - Irresistible Grace

Does salvation depend on God's grace or on the sinner's free will? Can God's will to save man be frustrated? Can it happen that although God's grace has begun to work in a man, that grace is able to be resisted and lost? Does God merely try to save men or does He actually save them?

These are vital questions!

The significance of these questions comes into no clearer focus than in a discussion of the truth of irresistible grace.

The doctrine of irresistible grace, or as it is sometimes referred to, efficacious grace, is the fourth of the Five Points of Calvinism. It is represented by the I in the acronym TULIP.

By irresistible grace we mean that God's grace and salvation cannot be effectively resisted. When God determines to save a man, that man is saved. Neither he himself, nor the devil, nor the wicked world are able to prevent his salvation. Nothing can stand in the way of God's purpose. Not only does God will to save him and work to save him, but He actually does save him, "For who hath resisted his will?" (Rom. 9:19).

Irresistible grace is an important issue. Let no church or individual Christian suppose otherwise.

The importance of this issue is not merely that it concerns the question "Can grace be resisted?" but ultimately the question "Can God be resisted?" The grace of salvation is God's grace. Can God, the sovereign God, the God about Whom the Scriptures declare that "He does according to His will in the army of heaven, and none can stay his hand" (Dan. 4:35) be frustrated in His will to save even one sinner? The issue concerns the very Being of God. As concerns the doctrine of irresistible grace, we are faced with the most fundamental question with which a man can be faced: what do you believe about God?

Because the Reformed faith confesses the truth that God is a sovereign God, the Reformed faith also teaches irresistible grace. This, surely, is rigorous logic, as any clear thinking person can see. More importantly, this is the teaching of the Holy Scriptures. The purpose of this chapter will be to demonstrate the validity of this assertion.

A. The Doctrine

1. The saving of the sinner is due to the power of God's grace alone. That sinner has been unconditionally elected to salvation in eternity by God the Father. In time he has been redeemed by the death of Jesus Christ. But this sinner must also be saved, that is, the benefits of Christ's death must be applied to him and he must be made to possess the salvation that God has willed for him. He must be converted in heart and life from a dead, unbelieving, and disobedient sinner to a living, believing, and obedient child of God. The power of God that works this radical change in the sinner is grace.

Salvation is by grace and by grace alone. That in the history of the church has proved to be the pivotal issue: grace alone! Always there have been those who, although they spoke of salvation by grace also attributed salvation, at least to some extent, to the work and ability of man. Yes, salvation is due to the grace of God, they said. But that grace of God cooperates with the work and will of the sinner. Yes, the power of God accomplishes salvation. But the power of God depends on the willingness of the sinner. What this means is that salvation is due to the grace of God and something else rather than to the grace of God alone.

The Scriptures teach clearly that salvation is by grace. In Ephesians 2:8 the apostle Paul teaches, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God." In Acts 20:24 the same apostle speaks of the gospel as "the gospel of the grace of God." Concerning himself he says in I Corinthians 15:10, "By the grace of God I am what I am."

That we are saved by grace means that we are not saved by works. Salvation by grace alone means that our works do not at all contribute to our salvation. That grace rules out works as the cause of salvation is plain from the Scriptures. We read in Romans 11:5, 6: "Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. And if by grace, then it is no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace."Galatians 2:16 teaches the same truth: "Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified." In Titus 3:5 Paul declares, "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost."

2. This grace of salvation is an irresistible grace. On the surface of it, it is plain that the power of grace must be a great power. Man is the sinner; God must be the Savior. Man is incapable; God must be able. Man is powerless; God must be omnipotent. Man is weak; God must be sovereign.

We are like the man whom Jesus healed at the pool of Bethesda (John 5:1-9). Just as he was physically impotent so are we spiritually impotent, absolutely unable to walk (spiritually) at all. And our condition is due to our sin, as was the case with the impotent man. "Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee" (John 5:14).

The saving of the sinner demands great power. The devil must be defeated; a rebel must be subdued; a heart of stone must be made a heart of flesh; a new creature must be brought forth; the dead must be raised. This work calls for great power, power that is beyond the power of a mere mortal: miraculous power, supernatural power.

On the part of God, great power is required. Mere begging, pleading, or coaxing will not do. But there must be the exercise of almighty power, such power as was exhibited in the creation of the world. Really every child of God is living evidence of the almighty power of God. On the part of anyone who has been the object of the saving grace of God, there can be no question of the sovereignty of God in salvation. Anyone who knows himself knows the sovereignty of God.

Granted that the power of irresistible grace is a great power, the question remains whether or not it is irresistible power. Granted that the sinner is dead, granted that God must work in salvation, granted that His work is powerful; could it not yet be that this work is not so powerful as to be resisted and frustrated by the sinner? Could it not be that God works to give all men the ability to come to Christ, if they chose to do so? Might not grace only enable men to come to Christ, always conditioned on their free will, so that man could very well choose not to come to Christ, refuse to come to Christ, and resist grace? So the crucial question is this: is the grace of God irresistible?

The answer of the Scriptures and the Reformed faith is: yes! Grace, if it is grace, must be irresistible grace. Because God is an irresistible, sovereign God, His grace is an irresistible and sovereign grace. God and God's grace cannot effectively and ultimately be resisted by the most obstinate of sinners. When God's grace operates to save the sinner, that grace shall triumph in the salvation of that sinner. He will be saved. God will have the victory. Not the power of the devil, not the power of the wicked world, not the power of the sinner himself, shall be able to prevent, overthrow, or frustrate the work of God's grace. The God of the Scriptures is the God Whom Isaiah says in Isaiah 46:10 "... declares the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure." He is the God before Whom Daniel says in Daniel 4:35, "... all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?"

The god of resistible grace is not the God of the Scriptures. He is a weak god, an ineffective god, a powerless god. In reality, he is no god at all, but an idol god. So serious is the denial of irresistible grace!

B. Scripture Passages

But what Scripture passages prove this teaching of irresistible grace? Do the Scriptures support this teaching? Without doubt, they do.

1. Salvation by grace alone.

a. Romans 3:24. Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
b. Romans 4:16. Therefore it (salvation) is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed.
c. Romans 9:16. So then it (salvation) is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.
d. I Corinthians 15:10. But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.
e. Ephesians 2:8. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.

2. Salvation not by man's works.

a. Romans 3:28. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the works of the law.
b. Romans 11:6. And if by grace, then it is no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work. 
c. Galatians 5:4. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.
d. Ephesians 2:8, 9. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.
e. II Timothy 1:9. Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.
f. Titus 3:5. Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.

3. Repenting and believing by the grace of God.

a. John 3:27. John (the Baptist) answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven. 
b. John 6:65. And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given him of my Father. 
Acts 5:31. Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Savior, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.
d. Acts 11:18. When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.
e. Acts 16:14. And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.
f. Acts 18:27. And when he (Apollos) was disposed to pass into Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him: who, when he was come, helped them much which had believed through grace.
g. I Corinthians 4:7. For who maketh thee to differ from another? And what hast thou that thou didst not receive? Now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?
h. Philippians 1:29. For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake.
i. Philippians 2:13. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
j. II Timothy 2:25. In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.

4. Grace is irresistible.

That the grace of salvation is irresistible is the clear teaching of the multitude of Scripture passages that speak of God efficaciously saving sinners. God does not try to save sinners, depending on their cooperation. He does not attempt to save sinners but stands helplessly by unless they at least exercise their free will. He does not do His best to save sinners, always facing the real possibility that His best is not good enough and that the sinner may effectively resist His efforts to save him. No, God saves sinners, sovereignly, efficaciously, irresistibly. This is the language of the Scriptures from beginning to end.

a. Deuteronomy 30:6. And the Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live. 
b. Isaiah 55:11. So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereunto I sent it.
c. Ezekiel 36:26, 27. And a new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.
d. John 6:37. All that the Father giveth me (Christ) shall come to me: and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. 
e. John 6:39. And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.
f. John 6:44, 45. No man can come unto me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.
g. Romans 8:29, 30. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover, whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. 

All who are predestinated and called by God are infallibly brought to salvation. The result of their being predestinated and called is that they are justified and glorified. Nothing can prevent the final glorification of any who are predestinated and called.

5. Salvation as rebirth, re-creation, resurrection.

The Scriptures' description of salvation as rebirth, re-creation, and resurrection from the dead leaves beyond question the truth of irresistible grace.

a. Rebirth.

Over and over again the Bible speaks of salvation as a rebirth. This is Jesus' description of salvation in His well-known discourse with Nicodemus in John 3. In John 3:3 Jesus says, "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." Other Scriptures that refer to salvation as a rebirth include John 1:13; 5:21, 24; Ephesians 1:19, 20; 2:1, 5; Colossians 2:13Titus 3:5I Peter 1:3I John 2:29; 3:9; 4:7; 5:1, 4, 18.

That salvation is a rebirth implies that the grace of salvation is irresistible. As far as physical birth is concerned, the child who is born has no say in the matter of whether or not he will be born. He does not cooperate in being born, not even will to be conceived and brought forth. Neither is he able effectively to resist conception and birth. What is true of physical birth is also true of spiritual rebirth. It is not due to us; we do not cooperate in it; nor are we able effectively to resist it. 

b Re-creation.

Often the Scriptures describe our salvation in terms of re-creation. Paul writes, for example, in II Corinthians 5:17, "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." Other places in the Scriptures where this figure is employed include Galatians 6:15Ephesians 2:10; 4:24; Colossians 3:10.

That salvation is a re-creation also implies that the grace of salvation is irresistible. Just ask yourself: "When God created all things in the beginning, how did He create them? Did He create them in such a way that when He spoke the creative word calling each creature into being, it still remained a question whether or not that creature would actually come into being? Did the creature cooperate with God in its creation? Was there a single creature able to resist God's creative word? To ask these questions is to answer them. What was true of God's original creation of all things in the beginning is also true of His still greater work of re-creation.

c. Resurrection.

Still another common figure in the Scriptures to describe God's work of saving lost sinners is resurrection from the dead. Recall the well-known prophecy of the dry bones in Ezekiel 37. In Ephesians 2:1 Paul writes, "And you hath he quickened (made alive again), who were dead in trespasses and sins." Other Scripture passages where this same figure occurs include John 5:28, 29Romans 6:13; 8:10; 11:15; Ephesians 2:5Colossians 2:13; 3:1.

The saving of the sinner is a resurrection of the sinner, a resurrecting of him from spiritual death, a raising of him from his being dead in trespasses and sins. By describing salvation as a resurrection from death, the Bible emphasizes that the power that saves the sinner is an irresistible power. It is folly to teach that the work of salvation is due to the cooperation of the sinner. It is folly to teach that in the work of salvation the sinner is able to frustrate and resist God's intentions of saving him. Can a dead man cooperate in his being made alive? Could Lazarus have frustrated Christ's intentions of raising him from the dead? In the last day, when Christ comes again and raises the dead, will those dead bodies be in a position to cooperate in being raised or to refuse to be raised, resisting the power of the resurrection and preventing the will of the exalted Christ that they be raised? Of course not. Neither is the sinner able to cooperate in or resist God's salvation of him.

6. The sovereignty of God's will.

Those texts of the Scriptures which teach the sovereignty of God's will also clearly imply the truth of irresistible grace. If that which God wills always comes to pass, God's purpose to save a sinner is a purpose that must be realized.

a. Psalm 115:3. But our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased.
b. Isaiah 46:9, 10. Remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.
c. Daniel 4:35. And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?

C. Difficult Passages

Against the doctrine of irresistible grace, appeal is often made to certain passages of Scripture which seem to teach that it is indeed possible for the sinner to resist and thus frustrate the grace of God.

Two passages may be cited as representative. In Matthew 23:37 Jesus laments, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, but ye would not!" Acts 7:51 records Stephen's accusation against the unbelieving Jews, "Ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye."

In explanation of these passages let it be understood that the doctrine of irresistible grace does not mean that the natural man does not stand opposed to God, God's Christ, God's Spirit, and God's Word. He certainly does. He is a rebel against God and a hater of God. There is no love of God in him nor desire to please God. This is simply what it means that the sinner is totally depraved. In this sense it certainly is true that the sinner resists God and salvation.

But the question is: can the sinner effectively resist God's grace? Can he maintain his resistance against God even when God has determined to save and has begun to save him? Can he frustrate the Holy Spirit when once the Spirit has begun to work in his heart and life? The answer to all these questions is: no! In this sense, God cannot be resisted. His grace is an irresistible grace.

1. Matthew 23:37.

As far as Matthew 23:37 is concerned, yes, the wicked leaders of the Jews did everything they could to prevent Jesus' gathering of Jerusalem's children. They stoned the prophets and opposed Jesus' preaching and teaching. They discredited Jesus before the people and threatened reprisal against any who openly confessed Him. In no way does this imply, however, that these wicked leaders succeeded in preventing Jesus from gathering Jerusalem's children. They were gathered and saved, that is, the elect among them, not withstanding the resistance of the wicked rulers.

2. Acts 7:51.

Stephen's accusation against the unbelieving Jews in Acts 7:51, that as their fathers had always resisted the Holy Ghost, so did they, does not either imply that grace is resistible. Stephen is not talking about these wicked Jews effectively resisting the grace of the Holy Spirit working within them to save them. Not at all! He is rather talking about their opposition to the Holy Spirit in the sense that they constantly opposed the word of the Holy Spirit in the Scriptures and the prophets who were the instruments of the Holy Spirit to bring that word. As their fathers resisted Moses and Aaron, so did the Jews of Stephen's day resist Jesus and His apostles. They did not resist the Holy Spirit within them, for they were devoid of the Holy Spirit. The proof is their rejection and stoning of Stephen. But their resistance was to the external call, commands, reproofs, and teaching of the servants of God sent by the Spirit.

D. Objections

1. Man is saved against his will.

Against Calvinism's teaching of irresistible grace the enemies of this truth raise several objections. One of their objections is that if God's grace is irresistible, then man is actually saved contrary to his will. The caricature of Calvinism is that it teaches that Christ draws sinners kicking and screaming into heaven; that God forces men against their wills to be saved. Those who hold to irresistible grace are charged with teaching that God deals with men as senseless stocks and blocks.

We reject this charge! This is not the teaching of Calvinism, but a gross misrepresentation.

Neither is it the case that one defends the truth of sovereign grace by denying, or downplaying, the activity of faith. One does not show himself to be a staunch advocate of irresistible grace by getting nervous whenever someone speaks of our repenting, our believing, or our coming to Christ, as if this puts the emphasis on man, man's work, and man's ability, and jeopardizes the truth of sovereign grace.

The reality is that the fruit, the infallible effect of God's grace in the sinner is that although before he did not believe in Jesus Christ, now he believes in Jesus Christ. Although before he did not repent of his sins, now he repents of his sins. Although before he would not come to Christ, now he wills and actually does come to Christ. Irresistible grace does not rule out repentance and faith but rather guarantees that the sinner will repent and will believe in Jesus Christ.

An illustration of this truth we have in Jesus' miraculous healing of the lame man at the pool of Bethesda in John 5. That impotent man had absolutely no ability in himself to walk, nor was he in any position to cooperate with Jesus in the miracle of his healing. But when Jesus spoke the word that healed him, that impotent man was healed and the effect of his being healed was that he did what he could not do before - he took up his bed and walked.

That our willing and doing are the effect of God's grace at work in our lives is plainly taught in the Holy Scriptures. In Psalm 110:3 David declares, "Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power." In Philippians 2:13Paul writes, "For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure."

2. Preaching and the other means of grace are unnecessary.

Another objection against the truth of irresistible grace is that it effectively rules out the use of means, particularly the means of the preaching of the gospel. If man does not have the ability in himself to believe, to accept Jesus Christ and salvation, why call men to faith in Jesus Christ? If it does not lie in the ability of every man to cooperate in salvation, why preach the gospel to all men? If God's grace is irresistible and if the will of God to save certain men will certainly come to pass, why should the church be concerned to preach the gospel at home or on the mission field? Will not God save his people regardless?

This objection does violence to the truth that although God's grace is irresistible, that irresistible grace of God is worked in men through definite means, chief of which is the preaching of the gospel. The divine rule in this matter is that God works and God maintains His grace in the hearts of His elect people by means of the preaching of the gospel.

The warning of the Canons of Dordt, III, IV, 19 is in order here.

As the almighty operation of God, whereby He supports this our natural life, does not exclude, but requires the use of means, by which God of His infinite mercy and goodness hath chosen to exert His influence, so also the before-mentioned supernatural operation of God, by which we are regenerated, in no wise excludes, or subverts the use of the gospel, which the most wise God has ordained to be the food of the soul. Wherefore, as the apostles, and teachers who succeeded them, piously instructed the people concerning this grace of God, to His glory, and the abasement of all pride, and in the meantime, however, neglected not to keep them in the exercise of the Word, sacraments and discipline; so even to this day, be it far from either instructors or instructed to presume to tempt God in the church by separating what He of His good pleasure hath most intimately joined together.

E. Denials

1. Free will.

The outstanding denial of irresistible grace is the popular teaching concerning the free will of the sinner. Those who hold to free will not only teach that man has the ability within himself to accept Jesus Christ but also teach that it is in the power of every man also to reject Jesus Christ, to resist and frustrate the operations of God's grace, and to prevent Christ's efforts to save him.

This was the teaching concerning the power of free will by Erasmus at the time of the Reformation. In his book On the Freedom of the Will, Erasmus states: "I conceive of free-will ... as a power of the human will by which a man may apply himself to those things that lead to eternal salvation, or turn away from the same."

The Arminians at the Synod of Dordt ascribed the same power to free will. To the Synod they stated their position as follows: 

That this grace of God is the beginning, continuance, and accomplishment of all good, even to this extent, that the regenerate man himself, without prevenient or assisting, awakening, following, and cooperative grace, can neither think, will, nor do good, nor withstand any temptations to evil; so that all good deeds or movements, that can be conceived must be ascribed to the grace of God in Christ. But as respects the mode of operation of this grace, it is not irresistible.

Although the statements of Erasmus and of the Arminians at the time of the Synod of Dordt are somewhat guarded, the greatest claims for free will are made today. Almost unlimited power is ascribed to the will of the sinner. Free will is able to accept Jesus Christ offered in the gospel, mighty to open up the heart to a pleading Savior, capable of making a decision for God. Indeed, free will is more powerful than God Himself, for it can resist God and prevent the operations of God's saving grace.

It ought to be clear that to teach free will is to deny irresistible grace. If the power of free will is not only that it can accept Jesus Christ and salvation but also reject the same, man is able effectively to resist God' grace. If God desires the salvation of all men, but salvation depends on the exercise of his free will, it is necessarily implied that although God desires the salvation of a certain man, that man may be able to frustrate God's desire to save him.

In fact, not only is the teaching of free will a denial of the irresistible character of God's grace, it is really a denial of grace altogether. If salvation depends on a power in man, a power that is able either to accept or to reject salvation, salvation becomes a work of man. And if salvation is due to a work of man, however small that work may be, it is not any longer due to the grace of God.

2. Common grace.

The teaching of common grace leads to a denial of irresistible grace. That is not hard to demonstrate. Common grace is a grace of God that is shown to all men but a grace of God that, although it is shown to all men, does not save them. To teach a non-saving grace of God, to teach a grace of God of which all men are the objects, is the first step towards denying irresistible grace. In fact, in those churches in which common grace has become accepted dogma, there has been a weakening and even on occasion open renunciation of the doctrine of irresistible grace.

3. The free offer of the gospel.

The teaching of the free offer of the gospel, inasmuch as it presupposes the free will of the sinner, is also an implicit denial of the irresistibility of grace. If the gospel is not any longer the power of God unto salvation, as Paul says that it is in Romans 1:16, not the means by which God works grace in the hearts of the elect, but only an offer of salvation, dependent on the sinner's acceptance of that offer; then it is clearly implied that the sinner may very well choose to reject the gospel and the offer of grace and salvation in the gospel. Then, although God wants to save him, although God expresses His love for him in the gospel, the sinner is able to frustrate that desire and love of God. The doctrine of irresistible grace is effectively thrown out the window.

F. Practical Importance

The importance of this doctrine is great. It belongs to the message of the gospel. That makes it an important doctrine. From various points of view it is important for the church and for every Christian personally to hold to the truth of irresistible grace.

1. Salvation by grace.

The maintaining of irresistible grace is important for our confession of the truth that salvation is of grace. To deny irresistible grace, to teach free will, is to teach that salvation depends upon the will and work of man. It is to teach grace plus works rather than grace alone. That is not the gospel, but another gospel, a false gospel, a gospel that is no gospel at all.

2. Assurance of salvation.

The believer's assurance depends on the truth of irresistible grace. If it is possible that God's grace can be resisted, that after God has begun his saving work in me, it is still possible that I can resist it and lose it, how can I ever be sure of my salvation? I cannot be. The doctrine of free will and the teaching of resistible grace are cruel doctrines. They strip the child of God of the assurance of salvation. Then he must live in constant doubt and fear whether he will ever be saved. That is frightening! That is paralyzing! That is depressing!

3. Intercessory prayer.

If God's grace were not irresistible, it would be foolish to pray for the conversion or repentance of anyone. If God stands by powerlessly before the dread majesty of man's free will, what sense would there be to pray for Him to convert anyone. What despair for the Christian married to an unbelieving mate! What despair for those believing parents who have a wayward child! What despair for that church that has straying members! On the other hand, what hope we may have when we understand, as each of us knows by our own experience, that the grace of God is a sovereign and an irresistible grace.

G. Relation to the Other Points

Certainly the truth of irresistible grace establishes the truth of the sovereignty of God. If God is sovereign, and He is, the grace of God must be an irresistible grace. To deny irresistible grace is to deny really the sovereignty of God. Then God and God's will are dependent on man and man's will. Then Christ is reduced to a beggar. And the Holy Spirit is a weakling. God is put in the position of Darius who earnestly desired to save Daniel from the lion's den, but could not ( Dan. 6). Because God is God, the almighty God, His grace is irresistible grace.

Irresistible grace is necessitated by man's total depravity. Exactly because man is the sinner, unworthy of salvation, his salvation must be by grace. And since man is such a sinner that there is no good in him, no ability for good, no desire even for the good, that grace of salvation must be an irresistible grace.

Unconditional election establishes the basis for irresistible grace. As God's salvation of men eternally did not rest on any worth or works in those men, was completely unconditional, so His salvation of them in time does not rest on any of their worth or works. And that is exactly the teaching of irresistible grace.

The teaching of irresistible grace preserves the truth of limited atonement. For if free will and resistible grace are true, then it were very well possible that Christ would have died in vain. Then, although Christ died for a man and wants to save that man, Christ is frustrated because of the unwillingness of the sinner to be saved.

Irresistible grace also guarantees the preservation of the saints. Since God's grace that brings salvation to a man is a sovereign, almighty grace, the grace of God that continues to abide in a man is a sovereign, almighty grace. Just as it cannot be frustrated in its initial operations, neither can it be frustrated ultimately. Those who are brought to salvation by the irresistible grace of God are by the power of that same grace preserved in salvation.

Questions from the Study Guide to aid in understanding and review.

Chapter 4 - Limited Atonement

Limited Atonement

The doctrine of limited atonement is the third of the Five Points of Calvinism and is represented by the letter L in the word TULIP, the word we use to help us remember the Five Points and their order.

This doctrine has been given other names. It is sometimes spoken of as the doctrine of particular atonement or of particular redemption for reasons that we will see later. For the same reasons it is sometimes called definite redemption.

It is also, so it seems, the most difficult of the Five Points to receive and believe as the teaching of the Scriptures, though they certainly do teach this doctrine. It is, for this reason, often rejected by those who are Calvinistic in their other teachings, so that there are some who claim to be four-point Calvinists, accepting the other four points and rejecting this one. This, to be sure, is really an impossibility, since all five of these doctrines "hang together" and are impossible to separate from one another. Nevertheless, the fact that some attempt to be four-point Calvinists does show the difficulty of this doctrine.

It is certainly regrettable that this is so, since this doctrine concerns the work of Christ on the cross and the benefits of that work for God's people. What ought to be a source of fellowship and of unity and of mutual faith in the death and redemptive work of Jesus Christ has become instead a matter of division and even strife among those who believe differently. Let it be clear that it is not our intent in treating this doctrine to further that strife or cause division but to show as clearly as possible the teaching of the Scriptures in the hope that this may further unity and fellowship in the truth.

A. The Doctrine

1. Atonement.

Whenever we speak of the atonement then we are using one of the words that the Bible itself uses to describe the benefits of Christ's death. The word, at least in the Old Testament, means "a covering" and reminds us that Christ's death provides a covering for our sins before God. The English word refers to the fact that through the death of Christ God's people are "reconciled," or "at one," with Him. The death of Christ, in other words, is "at-one-ment." The Bible, of course, uses many other words to describe the death of Christ and its benefits, words such as "ransom," "reconciliation," "propitiation," "satisfaction," and "redemption." All of these words differ somewhat in meaning, but all have this in common, that they indicate that Christ's death is our salvation.

Now it really does not matter whether we use the word atonement here or one of these other words. The disagreement does not revolve around any of these words and their meanings, but around the word limited when it is added to the word atonement or to any other of these words. No one, as such, would dispute that Christ's death is atonement, ransom, reconciliation, propitiation, or redemption, and those who believe in limited atonement believe also in limited redemption, limited satisfaction, limited propitiation, and all the rest, while the opponents of this doctrine would reject the word limited when used in connection with any of the words that describe the saving power of the death of Christ and would teach a universal atonement or redemption or satisfaction. It is nevertheless very important to see that all of these words that are used to describe the death of Christ also have this in common, that they all emphasize the fact that Christ's death actually saves. This is at the heart of the continuing dispute over this doctrine.

2. Limited.

When we add the word limited, then we are answering the question, "For whom did Christ die?" Did He die for every single person who ever has lived and ever will live, or did He die only for some people?

The doctrine of limited atonement teaches that Christ died only for some persons, a "limited" number of persons. Those who teach this doctrine would agree that the "limitation" on the atonement is election, in other words, that Christ died only for the elect and that it is only the elect who benefit from Christ's death.

Some clarification is needed here, for most of those who believe in a universal atonement do not believe that everyone benefits from the death of Christ in the sense that everyone is finally saved. They believe that Christ died for every person and that salvation is made available to everyone through the death of Christ, but that some only, and they are those who believe, benefit fully from Christ's death.

On the other hand, those who believe in limited atonement do not teach that the power and value of Christ's death is in any way limited. The only thing limited is the number of those for whom Christ died, and the limitation is not due to any defect in the work or death of Christ but to God's sovereign decree to save some and not others. For this reason, many who teach and believe in limited atonement prefer to speak of "particular atonement" rather than "limited atonement," since the word particular much more accurately describes what they believe, i.e., that Christ died only for particular persons and not for all people. The word particular also leaves no doubt about what exactly is limited here.

3. Possibility or guarantee.

There is another aspect of this doctrine, however, which is not immediately apparent and which is sometimes missed in the discussion of it. That is the question as to what Christ actually did by His death on the cross. The doctrine of limited atonement teaches that Christ by His death on the cross actually saves those for whom He died and does not just make salvation a possibility. In other words, His death is reconciliation with God, satisfaction for sin, redemption, atonement, and all the rest, and guarantees eternal life to all those for whom He died. This would seem self-evident, but it is exactly this point that must be compromised in order to teach that Christ died for all men without actually and completely saving all of them. Then, somehow, Christ's death does not itself bring salvation but only allows for the possibility of salvation. Something else beside the death of Christ is needed for salvation, perhaps man's choice, decision, or believing.

In summary, therefore, the doctrine of limited atonement really teaches four things:

a. That Christ's death is atonement for sin;

b. That because it is atonement, all those for whom He died are really and completely saved and go to heaven;

c. That He died only for particular persons and not for every single person who has lived or will live;

d. That those particular persons for whom He died are the elect, i.e., those whom God chose in eternity to be His people.

B. Scripture Passages

1. Primary references.

a. Matthew 1:21. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.

Notice here the emphasis on "his people." They are the ones Jesus saves and no others. Whoever they may be (and the Scriptures teach us in other places that they are the elect), they are a limited and particular number of persons. But notice also the emphasis on the fact that He does save them. He does not merely make salvation available but saves them from their sins entirely. Most important of all is the fact that these are the reasons why He is called JESUS. To deny either of these things is to deny His very name and the meaning of His name.

b. Isaiah 53:11. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.
c. Matthew 20:28. Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. 
d. Matthew 26:28. For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sin.
e. Hebrews 9:28. So Christ was once offered to bear the sin of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.

All four of these texts show that Christ gave His life for a select and limited number of persons and not for every single person. This is not to deny that there are also passages which speak of "all" or of the "world"; but if the Bible is indeed the infallible Word of God, then the two types of passages cannot contradict each other, and either it must be shown that "many" somehow does mean "every single person," or it must be shown that "all" and "world" do not necessarily refer to every single person living or who has lived. Isaiah 53:11 and Matthew 26:28 also use this language.

It might be noted here, too, that the Scriptures speak of this "many" for whom Christ gave His life in connection with the fact that that gift of His life was a satisfaction and justification for those for whom He died, a ransom that actually purchases them out of the slavery of sin and death, and that it actually remits sin, i.e., sends it away.

f. John 6:37-39. All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.

This passage also says that Christ actually loses none of those for whom He does His work. It is not as though Christ comes for all and yet loses many who slip away or do not believe. If He had lost even one of those for whom He came, He would not have done the Father's will, and His work would not even have been approved of God. This, by the way, also shows that it was not even God's will that Christ should die for or make salvation possible for all men.

Here again the ones for whom He comes and does His work are those given Him by the Father, that is, the elect, those chosen by God before the foundations of the world.

This passage is also valuable because it gives clear guidance as to how the word "all" is used in the Scriptures. We must not forget that it is not only used here but further defined as "all whom the Father giveth me." The "all" for whom Christ died, as this passage shows so clearly, never includes anyone but "all" the elect.

g. John 10:14, 15. I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.

This passage not only teaches limited atonement by its emphasis on the sheep as the ones for whom Christ died, but it teaches very plainly what we have previously called "particular" atonement in that it tells us that Christ knows His sheep in the same way that the Father knows Him and He knows the Father, i.e., personally and by name. If this is true and if He laid down His life for those whom He knows personally, then He cannot have died merely so that anyone and everyone might have a chance at salvation. 

h. John 10:26-28. But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.

That He actually saves His sheep by His death, saves them all the way to heavenly glory, infallibly and completely, is taught in the verses quoted. These verses show that it is not our faith that determines whether we will profit from Christ's death, but the will of God. In other words, as Jesus tells the unbelieving Jews, it is not that they are not part of the sheep who profit from His death because they do not believe; but because they are not of His sheep, they do not believe, i.e., because He did not die for them, they do not receive the gift of faith which He purchases for us with His own blood nor any of the other blessings of salvation. 

i. Acts 20:28. Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.

This passage identifies once again those for whom the blood of Christ was shed as a limited and particular number of persons, in this case, the church. And when we remember that very often in the Scriptures the church is contrasted with the world as a group drawn and called out of it, this makes the text even more emphatic.

j. Isaiah 53:8. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.
k. Luke 1:68. Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people.

Here are two more passages that define those for whom Christ gave His life as "His people" or even "My people" (God Himself speaking). Surely the wicked and unbelieving cannot be called that!

l. Titus 2:13, 14. Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of all good works. 
m. Galatians 3:13. Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is everyone that hangeth on a tree.

These last passages define those who benefit from Christ's redemptive work as "us," and the word used is by its very nature exclusive rather than inclusive.

Titus 2:13, 14 is especially significant because it not only speaks of Christ giving Himself for us but shows that those for whom He gave Himself are surely and completely saved - redeemed, purified, and zealous of good works.

2. Passages which show that Christ's death actually and fully saves those for whom He died.

Many of the passages quoted above demonstrate clearly that Christ's death does not make salvation just a possibility, so that it depends on our accepting it to become efficacious but that it is salvation and the guarantee of eternal life for all those for whom He died. Since this is the real issue, however, in the debate over limited atonement, we add these passages to those previously quoted.

a. Luke 19:10. For the Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.

Notice here that Christ comes to save the lost, not just to make it possible for them to be saved, the lost being those who know themselves lost like Zacchaeus. What is especially important about this verse, though, is that it is an explanation ("For ...") of the previous verse. There Jesus says, "This day is salvation come to this house." Salvation came, therefore, to the house of Zacchaeus not because he believed but because the Son of Man comes to save.

b. Romans 5:8-10. But God commended therewith his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. 

The point cannot be made anymore clearly than this verse makes it. We are reconciled to God by the death of Christ. That means that there is nothing anymore that is between God and us, nor can anything come between us, for having been reconciled, we shall be saved. This reference to salvation is more a reference to the final glory of God's people than to their first partaking of it, but that in no wise lessens the emphasis of the text. If anything, it makes the text even stronger, for then we have here a guarantee not only of the beginning of salvation but of eternal life itself and of heavenly glory. What is more, the passage is repeating and re-emphasizing that point, for it has already stated that we are justified by His blood (and therefore have peace with God (v. 1), and being justified shall surely be saved from wrath. The line of thought therefore is this: (1) Christ's death justifies; (2) because it justifies, it surely saves us from God's wrath; (3) therefore, there is no possibility of condemnation for anyone for whom Christ died but rather the assurance of life everlasting.

I Peter 2:24. Who his ownself bore our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.

This passage also teaches that not only Christ's death, but also all His suffering (his stripes) have actual saving power. It is to us the death of sin and the beginning of a new life of righteousness as well as our healing. And not only is it not merely the possibility of healing, but by it we were (literally, "have been") healed.

C. Difficult Passages

Here again there are many passages which are used to teach that Christ died for all men without exception simply because they have in them the words all or world. Rather than deal with each passage separately we shall group them as to the word they use and deal with them by choosing a few representative examples to show how they must all be interpreted in the light of the rest of the Scriptures. Generally speaking, however, it may be said that these passages do not intend to show that Christ died for all men without exception but that He died for all men without distinction, that is, making no difference between Jew or Gentile, great or small, rich or poor, slave or master.

1. All passages.

There are, therefore, first of all those passages which use the word all in connection with Christ's death. The best known passages are Romans 5:18II Corinthians 5:14, 15I Timothy 2:4-6Titus 2:11Hebrews 2:9; and II Peter 3:9.

In almost all of these passages the word all must be qualified in light of the context and very often simply means "all the elect" or "all God's people." But in every case the Scriptures themselves will provide the qualifier. Nor is this unusual. We speak that way so often in our everyday talk that we hardly realize it, simply using the word all when we are actually referring to a rather limited number of people; but we do not add the qualifier, because in the context of what we have been saying it is so obvious it does not need to be said.

Thus I Corinthians 15:22All here very plainly means "all who are in Christ." This is the parallel to all who are in Adam, who die in Adam. In fact, the text cannot mean anything else, or it teaches that every single person will ultimately be saved, something plainly contradictory to the rest of the Scriptures.

Thus also I Timothy 2:4-6. Here all plainly means "all kinds of men," not just ordinary people, but also rulers and governors and those who are in authority. That is the whole context of the statement that Christ is the Mediator of "all" and that God wills "all" to be saved. Paul begins with that idea in the very first verse where he admonishes the church to pray for all kinds of persons, especially for rulers, something they had apparently been neglecting. He is not telling them to pray for every single person in the world, a manifest impossibility. And so in the following verses he does not introduce a new thought but simply follows up that admonition with various reasons, i.e., that God has willed the salvation of all kinds of persons and that Christ is also the Mediator of all kinds of persons. Other passages which use the word all in this same way, to mean "all kinds" or "all manner" are Matthew 4:23; 5:11; 10:1; Luke 11:42Acts 10:12Romans 7:8I Peter 1:15; and Revelation 21:19. In many of these passages, in fact, that is the only thing the word all can mean. Thus even though these particular passages do not refer directly or at all to the death of Christ, they nevertheless do establish the way the word all can be and is used in the Scriptures.

Similar is Titus 2:11. If this passage teaches that the grace of God in the cross is for all men without exception, then it not only contradicts some of the passages we have already cited but contradicts the rest of Titus 2, particularly verses 13 and 14 which say that that grace and salvation were revealed for us, by which Paul refers to the church. What this means, of course, is that the word all must be and is qualified as a reference to a limited number of persons.

Likewise II Peter 3:9. Obviously this passage cannot mean that God is waiting for "all" to come to repentance in the sense that He is waiting for every single person to come to Christ and to repentance. If that were true, then Christ would never come, for that is what is being "delayed" here in the passage. Rather, as the passage itself indicates, the "all" here refers to "all of us." In fact, Peter says in the passage that it is to "us," i.e., to "all of us" that God is longsuffering and for whom He is waiting, that is for all the elect, or for all of the church.

So also with all the passages that use this language.

2. World passages.

There are also those passages that use the word world in identifying those for whom Christ died. The most often quoted passages which use this language are John 1:29; 3:16; 4:42; and I John 2:2. Those less often quoted are II Corinthians 5:19 and I John 4:14. These passages, too, must be understood in light of the rest of the Word of God. The key to these passages is John 17:9 which shows that there are two worlds, one for which Christ does not even pray, much less die (for if He could die for it, surely He could and would pray for it), and another world for which He both prays and dies: "I pray for them; I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine." Most of the passages must be interpreted with this in mind.

In a few of these passages, the reference of the word world is not so much to the world of the elect in distinction from the world of the wicked reprobate but to the world of the Gentiles in distinction from the world of Jews. But even in this case there are two worlds, though in this case both are redeemed by the blood of Christ. The most notable of these passages is I John 2:2.

There is a reason, however, why the Bible uses these words when speaking of the death of Christ. It does not, in other words, use them merely to make things difficult or to cause confusion but to teach a very important truth. That truth is this: that God, in saving His people does save the world. His work of salvation is not some kind of salvage work by which He manages to rescue a few here and there, but it is the salvation of the world which He originally created, though because of sin, it involves the cutting off and destruction of many persons. In other words, in the same way, that God saves His "vine" in Isaiah 5 and even saves it by cutting off many of the branches, so God saves His world. It is important that we see salvation from this perspective also, since it shows us that God is not frustrated by the coming of sin so that the best He can do is to salvage something of the wreckage of His plans, but that He in perfect wisdom accomplishes His original purpose and saves His world.

3. There are a few other passages that need to be dealt with here, notably I Timothy 4:10 and II Peter 2:1. The first passage would seem to teach that God in addition to being the Savior of His people is also in some sense the Savior of all men. II Peter 2:1 would seem to teach that the Lord in some sense of the word also "purchased" those who deny Him and are finally destroyed.

As far as I Timothy 4:10 is concerned, it must be clear that this passage cannot mean that God is the Savior of all men in the usual sense of the word, because otherwise the passage would contradict the rest of the Scriptures and teach universalism, i.e., that no one will be damned, since it does not say just that God sent His Son for all but is the Savior of all. The simplest explanation is this, and it was the explanation that John Calvin himself gave: that God is the Savior of all men in the sense that He provides life and breath, food and health and the other necessities of life for all without exception, while He gives life and health and all the other things to His people not only physically but also spiritually. This passage would simply confirm, therefore, the teaching of such passages as Psalm 145:9Acts 17:25; and Hebrews 6:7. Savior has, then, the sense only of "provider" as far as the wicked are concerned.

With respect to the second passage, II Peter 2:1, it must be remembered first of all that the passage cannot mean that these people were actually purchased by Christ with His own blood. If that is the case, then they belong to Christ and belong to Him forever, for as He says in John 10:27, 28: "I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand."

Remembering that, there are several possible ways to interpret the passage. The first would simply make the words the Lord that bought them a reference to the truth of blood atonement as taught by and believed in the church leaving the reference of the pronoun them general and not a reference to these false prophets. In other words, these false prophets deny this confession of the church, "The Lord bought us." The other interpretation is very similar and would make the word them refer to the people instead of making it refer to the false teachers. Those who are bought by the blood of Christ, then, are the people of God in the past and also in the present (those to whom Peter is writing).

In conclusion, let the point made briefly above be stressed again, i.e., that if the passages that seem to teach that Christ died for all men without exception are carefully examined and then interpreted as a reference to every person one will find that they teach far more than those who believe in universal atonement want them to teach, that is, they would then teach not just that Christ died for all men without exception but that all are actually saved and go to heaven.

D. Objection

An objection often heard against the doctrine of limited or particular atonement is that it denies the full value of Christ's sacrifice in that it teaches that Christ died only for some and not for all. Actually, this is the very opposite of the truth. It is not limited atonement that denies the value of Christ's death but the teaching that Christ died in some sense for all.

The point, once again, is that if Christ died for all and all are not in fact really and completely saved by His death, then the only possible conclusion is that Christ's death really did not do very much for them. It did not even determine finally whether or not they would perish or be saved. Christ's sacrifice, in that case, is neither very powerful or very valuable. At best it only made salvation possible.

But if all those for whom Christ died, even if they are not all men, are truly and fully saved by His sacrifice, then His blood is indeed beyond price because of its saving power. And the doctrine of limited atonement teaches that Christ's death is the full salvation of all those for whom He died.

E. Denials of Limited Atonement

As with the other four points, this doctrine of limited atonement has also been denied in various ways throughout the history of the church.

1. Universalism.

This teaching says that all men actually are saved by the blood of Christ and makes its appeal to those passages which speak of "all men" or of "the world." The difference between this teaching and that of Arminianism is that rather than teaching that Christ died for all but that all do not actually benefit from Christ's death so that they go to heaven, this teaching says that no one goes to hell and that the blood of Christ avails for all without exception.

Any cursory study of the Scriptures' teaching on judgment and hell will show that this teaching is false. Nevertheless, as obviously contrary as it is to the Scriptures, it is in some ways more consistent and more correct than the idea that Christ really died only to make salvation possible, since it does not deny the power of the blood of Christ to save. In fact, if we are to maintain that Christ's death has saving power, this is the only possible alternative to Calvinism.

2. Roman Catholicism.

The Roman Catholic Church denies the doctrine of limited atonement not so much by denying that Christ died only for His people but by denying that His blood is the only thing that cleanses away sin and by denying that He removed the sins of His people once for all. Thus such things as good works, penance, and purgatory are needed in addition to the blood of Christ to purge away sin. Likewise, the merits of the saints are of as much value as Christ's work in forgiving sins. This is especially true of the Roman Catholic mass, which supposedly is a non-bloody re-enactment of the death of Christ and a clear denial of the once-for-all-time value of Christ's death.

However, the Roman Catholic Church also denies the limited character of the atonement by teaching that there are more for whom the blood of Christ avails than those who finally go to heaven. For example, according to Roman Catholic teaching, the blood of Christ through the sacrament of baptism actually washes away original sin and also the original sin of some who do not continue in the way of salvation. This was also very similar to the teaching of Martin Luther and to that of the Lutheran churches today. Luther did, however, though somewhat inconsistently, teach limited atonement in other connections. It was only at this point that he "fudged."

3. Arminianism.

Arminianism, named after the followers of Jacob Arminius, against whom the original Five Points of Calvinism, Canons of Dordt, were written, taught and still teach today that Christ died for all men, though all are not actually saved and go to heaven. They explain this by teaching that Christ through His death made salvation available to all and that whether or not he will actually profit from the death of Christ depends on a person's believing and accepting what Christ has done.

This, however, makes our salvation depend more on our own choice or decision than on the death of Christ and really denies the power of Christ's blood. As the Canons of Dordt point out, this really means that Christ might have died without anyone actually profiting from His death, something which does not speak well either of the wisdom of God in sending Christ or of the value of Christ's death. It constitutes a denial of the power and value of Christ's death, therefore, even though this is the charge usually leveled against the teaching of Calvinism by those who hold to this teaching.

4. The free offer of the gospel.

This pestiferous teaching has crept into Reformed theology in recent years and is an "enemy in the camp" in that it also constitutes a denial of limited atonement.

This teaching says that God in the gospel makes a sincere and well-meaning offer of salvation to every person who hears the gospel, expressing in the gospel His desire that all be saved.

If this is true, then God lies in the preaching of the gospel, for He says what simply is not true according to the doctrine of limited atonement. His will as revealed in the cross is not that He desires that salvation of all men, but of some only, that is, of His elect, nor did He send His Son for all men but for the elect. How then can He sincerely say in the gospel that He wants all men to be saved without contradicting Himself and making Himself a liar? Nor is this taught anywhere in the Scriptures.

What is more, it is self-evident that if God really does express in the gospel a desire that all men be saved then the only possible basis for that can be that in some sense of the word He also sent Christ to die for all men. But that is not limited atonement. The problem here is that many who claim to believe in limited atonement actually do not teach it and in fact contradict it at this point. By doing so, they seriously damage the cause of Calvinism.

This teaching, by the way, is explicitly rejected in the Canons of Dordt, the original Five Points, as part of the erroneous teaching of the Arminians (cf. Canons III, IV, Rejection of Errors, 5).

5. Modernism.

This is not the name, obviously, of any particular sect or denomination but a reference to the teaching, so common today, that the death of Christ is not even atonement or redemption, but merely an example of a man who was willing to die for His principles and an example that we must follow. This teaching would make the death of Christ an example for all, at least for all who care to give heed to it, but it is clear that by denying the redemptive character of the blood of Christ, those who teach such are outside the pale of Christianity, for the death and atoning sacrifice of Christ are the very principles on which Christianity is founded.

The reason for mentioning this, however, is that in essence its teaching is not that much different from the teaching of Arminianism in that Arminianism also denies the power and efficacy of the blood of Christ. In fact, at the time of the Synod of Dordt, the Arminians were teaching various theories of the atonement which made the atonement merely an example of God's love or of His justice and which explicitly denied that the atonement was anything more than an example.

6. Sufficiency and efficiency.

There are also some who teach that while the death of Christ was actually powerful only for the salvation of the elect, that it was nevertheless sufficiently valuable to have paid for the sins of all mankind. This in itself is rather abstract and perhaps not overly objectionable, though the Scriptures certainly do not make such a distinction but insist that the atonement is both powerful and valuable only for the elect. However, this distinction is usually carried a step farther, so that it is taught not only that the death of Christ was hypothetically valuable enough to pay for the sins of all but that God actually intended it to do that, and that the only reason it does not is man's stubbornness in not believing and accepting the work of Christ.

This, obviously, is but thinly disguised Arminianism, and also adds up to a denial of the particular and limited character of the atonement.

7. God loves all men.

Obviously, the whole discussion of the extent of the atonement is inseparably connected with a discussion of God's love and God's intention. The teaching that Christ died for all without exception follows from the teaching that God loves all and wants all to be saved. There is, then, a very close connection between the doctrines of limited atonement and unconditional election. The Calvinist does not believe just that Christ died for some because that is the teaching of the Bible but also because he believes that the Bible teaches sovereign unconditional election, i.e., that God eternally loves and intends to save some only and not all. This is, however, the subject of another chapter.

F. Practical Importance

Nor is the doctrine of limited atonement a mere abstraction but part of the truth which rules our lives and makes us holy and obedient and gives us our comfort. With that in mind let us look at some of the practical implications of the doctrine.

1. Limited atonement and the preaching.

Whether or not one believes in limited atonement makes a tremendous difference in the way the gospel is preached. If the cross is indeed the power of God unto salvation as the Scriptures tell us it is, then the preaching will be the proclamation of the cross and of the death of Christ on the cross, and the power by which sinners believe will be the power of God speaking to them through that proclamation and by His Spirit in their hearts.

If, however, the power of the cross depends on man's accepting it or believing it, then the preaching will degenerate into a kind of "salespitch," as in many cases it has. One need only witness the various revival meetings that are so popular, the advent of the altar call, and the begging and pleading with sinners that is introduced into the worship of the church to see what the preaching becomes when the truth of limited, efficacious atonement is denied. It becomes, in the words of another writer, a "hawking" of Jesus Christ and of the cross on order of and very much like that which goes on at a carnival.

This is not to deny that there must also go forth as part of the preaching of the cross the call to repent and believe, but if one truly believes in limited atonement, then that will indeed be a call in the sense of a command and not a thinly disguised offer of salvation to all or a vain attempt to "sell" Christ by begging with sinners. Then too, the charisma and oratorical skill of the preacher are not the main thing in preaching, as so many think today, but the fact that He preaches nothing but Christ crucified as the power of God unto salvation. What one believes about the atonement, therefore, has a profound effect on the very nature and manner of gospel preaching.

2. Limited atonement and missions.

Closely connected with the preceding is the fact that the doctrine of limited atonement means that the calling of the church in missions is not to preach the gospel to every single soul now living but to preach it when and where God sends her. It is a misunderstanding of this point that places a heavy burden of guilt on Christians today, for it is all but impossible both in terms of cost and in terms of manpower to preach the gospel to every living human being. Yet the church ought to feel guilty if Christ has died for every person and the church has not made that known to everyone living. Then there is no Christian living who ought not sell all his possessions and dedicate every moment of his life to try to accomplish this goal. If he does not, he is guilty of failing to let men know that Christ has died for them. Then too, the church in the past has never realized her calling to preach the gospel to all the world but has fallen far short of that most important calling of all, her great commission.

If, however, one believes in limited atonement, then one can be sure that the cross is not for all and be satisfied to preach the gospel when and where God sends. This is not to say that the church must not actively and aggressively do the work of missions, only that she need not feel guilty when she is not able for legitimate reasons to bring that gospel to every single man, woman, and child. She can rest content that where God has His people He will make it possible also for the church to preach the gospel both by opening the door and by providing the necessary means.

3. Limited atonement and witnessing.

Belief in limited atonement also has an effect on the content of the believer's witness as well as the content of mission preaching. The doctrine of limited atonement means that neither the church in its mission preaching nor the believer in his witnessing may go to the lost and simply say to them, "Christ died for you!" To say that would in many cases simply be a lie and the attempt to persuade the lost by telling them this little more than seduction.

What the believer must do in his witnessing is speak of Christ and the power of His work as well as the fact that He died for the sins of His people, calling the lost to repentance and faith in Christ, and leaving the work of convincing and convicting sinners to the Holy Spirit.

4. Limited atonement and the assurance of salvation.

It should also be evident that our assurance of salvation depends on our knowing that the cross is salvation, full and free. If we should really think that the cross was only a possibility of salvation and that our benefiting from the cross was dependent on our accepting it, we would be bereft of all our comfort in Christ, for our comfort is exactly that He is all our salvation and that nothing more is needed besides Him.

If we should think that God sincerely offered salvation to all men without exception, how should we ever know that we were not among those to whom salvation was sincerely offered by God, while He had not even sent His Son to die for our sins or given us to Christ to be saved by His blood? We must know that His blood is the only thing that stands between us and hell, for if that is not sufficient to save us, then what in all the world is?

5. Limited atonement and the glory of God.

As far as glorifying and praising God in the church is concerned, this doctrine is also of the greatest possible value. Who could praise a God Who sincerely offers salvation to all without even intending their salvation? Who can praise a God Who sent His Son into the world and subjected Him to the shame and reproach of the cross on the mere chance that some might be saved?

One thing is certain. However much we may quibble about these doctrines, God will not allow one drop of His Son's blood to be wasted or allow His costly death to be a failure. Nor will He allow His own wisdom to be impugned by the notion that He would go to such effort and pay such a price merely in the hope that some might be saved nor allow His power to be blasphemed as though He were not able to save all those whom He intended to save and for whom He sent His Son.

It is the sovereignty of God which is really at stake here, and we ought to see that. God is not only sovereign in deciding from eternity who shall be saved, but He is the same Sovereign at the cross and in the preaching of the cross, for there also He decides who shall be saved and who shall profit from the blood of Jesus Christ His Son.

G. Relation to the other four points

The doctrine of limited atonement, as we have already to some extent seen, is inseparably related to the other four points. It is, therefore, really impossible to be a three- or four-point Calvinist and reject this doctrine while maintaining all or most of the others.

As far as unconditional election is concerned, that doctrine, with the emphasis on unconditional, insists that man's faith is not in any sense of the word a condition to his salvation but that salvation is all of grace. This must also be true at the cross. If salvation through the cross is conditional and depends on man's acceptance of it, then election cannot be unconditional, since election is not a mere choice of those who will be saved but the actual planning of the way of salvation as well. So also election would be in vain if salvation in the cross still depended on man's choice or decision for Christ, for whether or not God chose someone would really make no difference. All would still hinge on man's own free will and decision.

As far as total depravity is concerned, that doctrine is the reason why the atonement must be efficacious for all those whom God has given to Christ, for the doctrine of total depravity teaches us that man has of himself no power to accept Christ or believe in the cross. He can have that power only through the cross and by the cross. If the power of the cross really depended on our acceptance of Christ, the doctrine of total depravity says that no one at all could possibly be saved by the cross.

Likewise, the doctrines of irresistible grace and perseverance follow from this doctrine, for to teach limited atonement is to teach also efficacious atonement, as we have seen, and that simply means that by His cross Christ purchased all that was necessary for our salvation and purchased it for us with the price of His own blood so that it belongs to us and so that we belong to Him and cannot be let go or lost. Thus the power of the cross is the guarantee of our salvation by the power of efficacious grace and our perseverance until the end.

Questions from the Study Guide to aid in understanding and review.

Chapter 3 - Unconditional Election

Unconditional Election

The doctrine of unconditional election is the second of the Five Points of Calvinism and is represented by the letter U in the acronym TULIP.

The doctrine of predestination, of which election is a part, has been called the heart of the gospel. This is true. The gospel is the good news of salvation. But those who are saved are those who have been predestined unto salvation, that is, the elect. The gospel declares the suffering and death of Jesus Christ for unworthy sinners. But Christ died only for those unworthy sinners who had been chosen by God. The gospel calls men to faith in Jesus Christ. But faith is worked only in the hearts of the elect. The gospel is the means to gather the church. But those who are members of the church, genuine church members, are the elect. There can be no doubt about it that the doctrine of predestination is at the very heart of the gospel message.

It is imperative that every believer have a good understanding of predestination. There is much ignorance and confusion over this doctrine in our day. Besides, there are numerous corruptions and denials of this doctrine in places where historically it was confessed. Many are abandoning the doctrine because they suppose that it is the invention of clever theologians but that it is not taught in the Scriptures. Others, who will admit that predestination is taught in the Bible, allege that it is a doctrine of little or no practical benefit for the church.

These people are seriously mistaken! We must see that the doctrine of election is clearly taught in the Word of God. And we must be convinced that it is a doctrine of the greatest practical value for Christians.

We echo the sentiments of John Calvin:

Let those roar at us who will. We will ever brighten forth, with all our power of language, the doctrine which we hold concerning the free election of God, seeing that it is now only by it that the faithful can understand how great the goodness of God is which effectually called them to salvation.... Now, if we are not really ashamed of the Gospel, we must of necessity acknowledge what is therein openly declared: that God by His eternal goodwill appointed those whom He pleased unto salvation, rejecting all the rest.... (Calvin's Calvinism, p. 31)

A. The Doctrine

1. Statement of the doctrine.

By election we mean the eternal choice by God of certain definite individuals in Jesus Christ unto salvation.

There are many references in the Scriptures to this election or choice by God. It is the Lord Jesus Who declares in Matthew 22:14, "Many are called, but few are chosen (elect)." In Romans 11:5 the apostle Paul writes, "Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace." The same apostle writes in Ephesians 1:4, "According as he hath chosen (elected) us in him before the foundations of the world...." In Colossians 3:12 he exhorts believers, "Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering." In Titus 1:1 reference is made to "... the faith of God's elect." The apostle Peter writes in I Peter 2:9, "But ye are a chosen (elect) generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation...." And in II Peter 1:10 he exhorts Christians, "Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure."

Election is only one aspect of the broader doctrine of predestination. Predestination is God's eternal (pre-) decision with respect to the everlasting destiny (destination) of all His rational, moral creatures, men, angels, and devils. There are many who become uneasy when the word predestination is mentioned. But predestination is not some hideous monster invented by theologians gone over the deep end. The Bible teaches predestination.

The Greek word from which our English word predestination is derived occurs six times in the New Testament. We find it used twice by the apostle Paul in Romans 8:29, 30: "For whom he did foreknow, he also didpredestinate to be conformed to the image of his son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified." In Ephesians 1:5 the apostle Paul declares, "Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of his will." Again we read inEphesians 1:11, "In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will."

The word predestinate is also found in Acts 4:28, where it is translated as "determined before." There the apostle Peter teaches that Christ's crucifixion and the role in Christ's crucifixion played by wicked Herod and Pontius Pilate were predestined by God. In that context, he declares in verse 28 that these wicked rulers were gathered together "to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before (predestined) to be done."

In I Corinthians 2:7 the word predestinate is translated "ordained": "But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom which God ordained (predestined) before the world unto our glory." Here Paul teaches that the whole plan of salvation was predestined by God.

2. Characteristics.

The outstanding characteristics of election include the following:

a. Decretive.

Election is a decree, a decision or choice of God. God elects, and God elects whom He wills to elect. Election is part of the counsel and will of God. In Romans 8:29, 30 we read, "Whom he (God) did predestinate." InEphesians 1:4 we read, "According as he (God) hath chosen...." Ephesians 1:11 states, "In whom we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him (God) who worketh all things after the counsel of his (God's) own will."

b. Personal.

Election is God's choice of certain definite individuals. Election is not some vague and indefinite decree of God that merely determines that there shall be salvation. Nor is it a decision on the part of God to save a mass of human beings. But election is God's determination to save particular persons. Ephesians 1:4 teaches this: "According as he hath chosen us...." In John 15:16 Jesus says, "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you...." In Romans 9:11-13 the apostle Paul teaches that Jacob, a definite individual, was elected by God, while Esau, a definite individual, was not elected by God.

c. Eternal.

Election is the eternal choice of God of certain persons. Election does not take place in time and history, as God's response to the actions of men, but election is eternal election. Paul writes in Ephesians 1:4, "According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world...." In Revelation 17:8 the apostle John speaks of those "... whose names were written in the book of life from the foundation of the world."

d. Unto salvation.

The purpose of election is the salvation of those persons whom God has eternally chosen. They are not chosen merely to some earthly, temporal privileges, but they are chosen unto salvation itself. In Romans 8:29, 30 those who are predestinated are justified (have their sins forgiven and Christ's righteousness imputed to them) and glorified (go to heaven). In Ephesians 1:5 Paul teaches that we are predestinated "... unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ unto himself." In Revelation 17:8 the elect are said to have their names written in the Book of Life - everlasting life - life with God in the perfection of the new heavens and earth.

e. Gracious.

That a person is elected by God is not due to anything in that person but is due to the free, unmerited grace of God. The cause of election is not at all to be found in those who are elected, but the cause of election lies only in the will of the electing God. Those who are elected are not different or better in themselves than those who are not elected. All men, as was made plain in the previous chapter, are by nature dead in trespasses and sins. That some men, in distinction from others, should be chosen by God to salvation is to be attributed solely to the grace of God. Paul writes in Ephesians 2:8, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God." In Romans 11:5 he speaks of "... a remnant according to the election of grace."

f. Unconditional.

If election is gracious, it follows that it must be unconditional. If election is due alone to the grace of God, it is not conditioned upon anything in man or that man must do. This is a crucial point. There are many who professed to hold to biblical election but who have denied the truth of election by making election conditional. This was the false teaching concerning election propounded by the Arminians at the Synod of Dordt. The Arminians professed to believe in election, but the election that they taught was a conditional election. According to this view God in eternity looked into the future and saw who would believe on Him and who would choose Him. These in turn God chose and elected as His people. Election became God's choosing those who chose Him. But this conception of election will not stand the test of the Scriptures. Speaking of God's election of Jacob and rejection of Esau, Paul writes in Romans 9:11, "For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth...." In John 15:16 the Lord Jesus teaches unconditional election in the clearest of language: "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you." Jesus does not mean to teach here that we do not choose Him. We do choose Jesus Christ. We do desire salvation. We do willingly follow Him as His disciples. But Jesus' concern here is with who chose first and whose choice is decisive. His teaching in John 15:16 is that we choose Him only because of and as the result of His choice of us. Our choice of Him is not the reason for His choice of us; but His choice of us is the explanation of our choice of Him. His choice of us is not dependent on our choice of Him; our choice of Him is dependent on His choice of us.

The Bible also teaches unconditional election when it sets forth the truth that our good works, faith, and repentance are not the cause or reason why God has chosen us but are the fruit, result, and evidence of our election. In very many passages of Scripture this relationship between God's election and our works is set forth. In John 15:16 Jesus says that He has chosen us, not because of, but that we should go and bring forth fruit. Paul writes inEphesians 1:4 that God has chosen us, not because, but "... that we should be holy and without blame." In Ephesians 2:10 the same apostle writes, "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto (not 'because of') good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." Not only is it taught here that we are chosen unto good works, but there is added the statement that these works themselves have been ordained for us by God.

g. In Jesus Christ.

Although there is no basis for God's election in those who are elected, there is a basis for their election. That basis is to be found alone in Jesus Christ and in His suffering and death as the Son of God. Nor our worth is the basis for God's election of us, but the worth of Christ. Not our works are the ground for God's election of us, but the work of Christ. There must be a basis for God's election of those who are in themselves totally depraved, guilty sinners. That basis for their election, as for all of their salvation, is in Jesus Christ. In Ephesians 1:4 we read, "According as he (God) hath chosen us in him (Jesus Christ)...." And in verse 5 of the same chapter he writes, "Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ...."

3. Reprobation.

The Reformed faith maintains "double predestination," that is, not only election, but also reprobation. God's election of men in Jesus Christ is selective and discriminating. Not all men are chosen by God and appointed to salvation. In reality, many are excluded and rejected. In the words of the Canons of Dordt, I, 15: "What peculiarly tends to illustrate and recommend the unmerited grace of election is that not all, but some only are elected, while others are passed by in the eternal decree of God." This is the teaching of reprobation.

Like election, reprobation is an eternal decree of God. According to this decree God appoints certain definite persons to the everlasting destiny of rejection and damnation. Those reprobated deserve this punishment to which they are appointed because of their unbelief and other sins. God does not owe salvation to them nor to anyone.

Reprobation demonstrates the sovereignty of God in salvation, that God does what He wills with the creatures He has made. The reprobate are no worse than the elect. All men appear in the mind of God as involved in a common ruin. The ultimate explanation of God's electing some and reprobating others is His own sovereign good pleasure: "... for so it seemed good in his sight" (Matt. 11:26). Beyond that we cannot go, and before that we humans must bow. Theoretically, God could have chosen to save all men (for He has power to do so), or He could have chosen to save none (for He was under no obligation to save any). But He did neither. Instead He has chosen to save some and exclude others.

B. Scripture Passages

There are many references both in the Old and New Testaments to the truth of election.

1. The Old Testament.

The outstanding example of election in the Old Testament is God's election of the nation of Israel. In distinction from all other nations, God chose Israel to be His people.

a. Deuteronomy 7:6. For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God: the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all the people that are upon the face of the earth.
b. I Kings 3:8. And thy servant (Solomon) is in the midst of thy people which thou hast chosen, a great people, that cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude.
c. Psalm 105:6. O ye seed of Abraham his servant, ye children of Jacob his chosen.
d. Psalm 132:13. For the Lord hath chosen Zion, he hath desired it for his habitation.
e. Isaiah 41:8. But thou, Israel, art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend.
f. Isaiah 45:4. For Jacob my servant's sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called thee (King Cyrus) by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me.

2. The New Testament

a. Matthew 22:14. For many are called but few are chosen.
b. Matthew 24:31. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
c. Mark 13:20. And except that the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh should be saved: but for the elect's sake, whom He hath chosen, he hath shortened the days. 
d. Luke 18:7. And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? 
e. John 13:18. I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen: but that the Scripture might be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me. 
f. John 15:16. Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.
g. John 17:9. I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.
h. Romans 8:28-30. And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.
i. Acts 13:7. The God of this people of Israel chose our fathers, and exalted the people when they dwelt as strangers in the land of Egypt, and with an high arm brought he them out of it.
j. Romans 8:33. Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect?
k. Romans 9:11-13. For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth; it was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.
l. Romans 9:23. And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory.
m. Romans 11:5. Even so at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.
n. Romans 11:7. What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for, but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded.
o. Ephesians 1:3-5. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: according as he hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love, having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.
p. Ephesians 1:11. In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.
q. Colossians 3:12. Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering.
r. I Thessalonians 1:4. Knowing brethren beloved, your election of God.
s. I Thessalonians 5:19. For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ.
t. II Thessalonians 2:13. But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.
u. II Timothy 2:10. Therefore I endure all things for the elect's sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.
v. Titus 1:1. Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God's elect.
w. I Peter 1:2. Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.
x. I Peter 2:9. But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.
y. I Peter 5:13. The church that is at Babylon, elected together with you, saluteth you; and so doth Marcus my son.
z. II Peter 1:10. Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall.
aa. Revelation 17:14. These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful.

3. Election is definite and particular.

These and all the other a. Deuteronomy 7:6I Kings 3:8Psalm 105:6; 132:13; Isaiah 41:8; 45:6; Acts 13:17. (Quoted above in B.1. and 2.)

passages of Scripture which speak of God's election of Israel indicate that election is definite. God chose Israel in distinction from all other nations to be His people.

b. John 15:16. Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit.... 
c. Romans 9:28-30. And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called; and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.
d. Romans 9:11-13. For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth; it was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.

In this passage the apostle Paul teaches that God has elected the specific, definite person Jacob.

e. Ephesians 1:4, 5. According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.
f. Revelation 13:8. And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him (the antichristian beast), whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.

We are taught here that there are names of definite people which are written down in the Book of Life, specific persons, therefore, who are elected by God. The next passage teaches the same truth. 

g. Revelation 17:8. The beast that thou sawest was, and is not: and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition: and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they shall behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.

4. Election is an eternal decree.

a. Ephesians 1:4. According as he hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love.
b. II Thessalonians 2:13. But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.
c. II Timothy 1:9. Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.
d. Revelation 17:8. The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition: and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they shall behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.

5. Election is unto salvation.

a. Acts 13:48. And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.
b. Romans 8:28-30. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.

The "Golden Chain of Salvation" described here in Romans 8:29, 30 begins with foreknowledge and predestination and ends with justification and glorification.

c. Ephesians 1:5. Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.
d. II Thessalonians 2:13. But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.
e. II Timothy 2:10. Therefore I endure all things for the elect's sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.

6. Election is gracious and unconditional.

a. Deuteronomy 7:7. The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people.
b. John 1:13. Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. 
c. John 15:16. Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.
d. Romans 9:11. For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth. 
e. Romans 9:16. So then it (salvation) is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.
f. Romans 11:5. Even so at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.
g. I Corinthians 1:27-29. But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: that no flesh should glory in his presence.
h. Ephesians 2:8. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.
i. II Timothy 1:9. Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.

7. Election is gracious and unconditional (continued).

That our election is gracious and unconditional is also indicated by those Scripture passages which teach that repentance, faith, and good works are the fruit, not the cause, of our election. 

a. John 15:16. Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.

Here Jesus teaches very clearly that He has chosen and ordained us, not because of the good works ("fruit") that we have produced, but in order that we should produce good works ("fruit"). Our good works are not the cause of our election but the purpose and result of our election.

b. Acts 5:31. Him (Christ) hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and Savior, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.

Repentance is not some work that originates in us, a condition that we fulfill, thus making ourselves worthy of God's election of us. On the contrary, repentance is a gift of Christ to us. That a man repents is due to the grace of God that works repentance in him.

c. Acts 13:48. And when the Gentiles heard this (the preaching of the apostle Paul), they were glad, and glorified the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed. 

This passage teaches that only as many as were ordained to eternal life (elect) believed the preaching of God's apostle. It teaches that all in his audience who were ordained to eternal life believed. And it teaches that their faith (believing) was the fruit of their having been ordained to eternal life.

d. Ephesians 1:4. According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love.

We have been chosen so that we should be holy and without blame, not because we were holy and without blame. Our holiness (good works) is not the basis for our election but the purpose for which we have been elected.

e. Ephesians 2:10. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

First, the apostle Paul teaches here that we are created in Christ Jesus (saved) unto good works. Good works cannot be the cause or basis for our salvation but the goal or purpose for which we are saved. Second, the apostle Paul teaches that even these good works which we perform as the result of our salvation "God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." If God has eternally ordained our good work, and if God gives us the strength actually to do good works, how can we ever suppose that our good works are our contribution to salvation, much less the cause of salvation?

f. Acts 18:27. And when he (Apollos) was disposed to pass into Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him: who, when he was come, helped them much which had believed through grace.

Like the passage in Ephesians 2:8, this text teaches that faith (believing) is a gift of God. Faith does not originate in man himself, but faith is worked in us by God. To use this language of Acts 18:27, we believe "through grace." If, now, faith is itself a gift of God, it cannot be that which man produces as the cause of his election and salvation.

g. II Timothy 1:9. Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.

Here Paul expressly states that we have been saved and elected not because of any works that God saw in us but according to his will and grace.

h. Philippians 1:29. For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake.

It is "given" to us to believe. Once again, the Scriptures teach that election and salvation cannot be conditioned on our faith. Faith does not have its source in us who believe but is a gift of God worked in us.

i. Philippians 2:12, 13. Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.

Often verse 12 is quoted by those who teach that man has the ability to earn his salvation. Emphasis is placed on the exhortation, "... work out your own salvation...." But that this cannot possibly be the meaning of the words is made plain by the immediately following words, "For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure."

8. Election is in Jesus Christ.

a. Ephesians 1:4. According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love.
b. Ephesians 1:5. Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.
c. II Timothy 1:9. Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.
d. Hebrews 5:9. And being made perfect, he (Christ) became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.

9. Reprobation.

The first proof for reprobation is the Greek word, inspired by the Holy Spirit, in the New Testament and which is translated "elect" or "chosen" in our King James Version of the Bible. That Greek word means literally, not simply "to choose," but "to choose out of." That clearly implies reprobation. If God's elect are chosen out of the fallen human race, it is clearly implied that there are others out of whom the elect have been chosen. They have not so been chosen. They are the non-elect, or reprobate.

The truth of reprobation follows from election. Even the enemies of the doctrine of predestination have recognized this. Repeatedly they have charged that reprobation is only a logical deduction that is made from the truth of election, a logical deduction, according to them, that is not necessarily in harmony with reality. Now, we hope to show that reprobation is not simply a logical implication of election but the express teaching of the Scriptures, as the Reformed faith has always maintained. But it certainly is true that reprobation follows logically from the truth of election. One cannot consistently hold to election without also confessing reprobation. Neither can one deny reprobation without also, by that very fact, denying election. If election is God's choice of certain definite particular persons, then it follows that there are those who are not so chosen by God. Those who deny reprobation but make some effort to hold yet to election end up with an election according to which God chooses all men and desires the salvation of all men. There is no particular election. The reason why some men in distinction from others are in the end actually saved is due to those men themselves, to their free will and to their good works. Thus the unconditionality of election is denied. Election is no longer gracious election. History, too, has demonstrated - let men open their eyes! - that the denial of reprobation is inherently an attack upon and a rejection of unconditional election.

a. Proverbs 16:4. The Lord hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.

God has made the wicked for the day of evil. They are wicked, wilfully wicked. And they forever bear the blame for their wickedness. But their wickedness does not take away from the fact that they have been made by God for the day of evil.

b. John 10:26. But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you.

Often these words of Jesus to the unbelieving Jews are twisted. Then Jesus says that the unbelieving Jews are not of His sheep (the number of the elect) because they do not believe on Him. That is exactly what Jesus doesnot say here. On the contrary, they do not believe on Him because they are not of His sheep. That they do not believe on Christ is due to this, on this account, has this as its explanation, that they are not of Jesus' sheep. First they are not of Jesus' sheep, and then because they are not, neither do they believe on Him. Implied is that those who do believe on Jesus believe on Him because they are of His sheep. That they believe on Jesus is itself the evidence that they belong to the number of Jesus' sheep. Because they are of Jesus' sheep they also believe on Him.

c. Romans 9:11-13. For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth; it was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.
d. Romans 9:21-23. Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor? What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: and that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory.
e. I Thessalonians 5:9. For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain eternal salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ.

That "we" have not been appointed by God to wrath clearly implies that there are others who have been appointed by God to wrath, in other words, reprobated.

f. I Peter 2:8. And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the Word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.
g. Jude 4. For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.
h. Revelation 13:8. And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him (the antichristian beast), whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.
i. Matthew 11:25, 26. At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things (of the kingdom) from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight.

Here the Lord Jesus thanks - think about that, thanks! - His heavenly Father because He has hid, actively hid, the things of the kingdom of heaven from certain men. Jesus indicates that in harmony with the Father's eternal reprobation of some men in time and in history He hides, hardens, withholds, and blinds certain men, thus preventing their salvation.

C. Difficult Passages

1. Romans 8:29I Peter 1:2; and other passages which speak of God's foreknowledge.

The Scripture passages most often used against the doctrine of sovereign unconditional election are those passages which speak of God's foreknowledge and indicate that foreknowledge is before election. The argument, then, is that election is not unconditional, that is, without any regard for what we are or would be but is conditioned on God's prior knowledge of what we would be or do. In other words, God chose certain people because He had already foreseen that they would repent and believe, and their foreseen faith was the condition on which God chose them.

Now apart from the fact that this is a denial of God's sovereignty, inasmuch as it makes God's choice dependent on man's (even though only foreseen), it does not at all reflect the biblical idea of foreknowledge. For one thing, foreknowledge in the Scriptures is not just a kind of predicting of the future but is causative, that is, foreknowledge as much as election does not just foretell our believing but actually brings it about (cf. Acts 2:23). For another thing, foreknowledge in the Scriptures is also much more than mere foresight in that it is actually God's love before time. This becomes very clear when one studies the way in which the Scriptures use the wordknowledge in such passages as Genesis 4:1Amos 3:2; and Galatians 4:9. That means that insofar as foreknowledge does indeed precede election (this we cannot deny) it is the deepest reason for election, but then the deepest reason for election is not our foreseen faith but God's eternal love.

2. Deuteronomy 7:6, 7; 14:2 and other similar Old Testament passages.

Such passages as these which speak of Israel's election are sometimes used to deny that election (and reprobation) are personal and therefore also sovereign and unconditional. Some teach by these verses that God chose only a nation in the Old Testament and that He chose them only to receive certain privileges. Similarly it is taught that as far as New Testament people are concerned, God did not choose persons either but only an indefinite number. Understand, if God has chosen certain persons and chosen them to salvation as the Scriptures so clearly teach, then election is effective and unconditional. But if He has chosen only an indefinite number of persons or a nation, then election is neither effective nor unconditional, for then those who are saved are not saved because of election but because of their own works or faith.

Especially valuable in this connection is Romans 9:10-13 which speaks so clearly of a personal election and reprobation way back in the Old Testament. This passage along with those that speak of "names" being written in the Book of Life (Luke 10:20; Phil. 4:3; Rev. 13:8; 17:8) conclusively shows that election is indeed personal and therefore also effective, sovereign, and unconditional.

D. Objections

1. Predestination a denial of God's love.

Often it is objected against the teaching of predestination that it denies a loving God. Now, certainly, God is a God of love. In I John 4:8 we read, "He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love."

What is forgotten, however, is that God loves Himself first of all. He is a jealous God, jealous of His own Name, His own righteousness, and His own holiness. Exactly in the love that He has for Himself, God judges, punishes, and damns all who are not in harmony with His own holiness.

Reprobation displays God's justice, as election does His mercy. In fact, the mercy of God in election is magnified against the dark background of His righteousness in reprobation. This is exactly what Paul teaches inRomans 9:22, 23, "What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: and that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory."

2. Predestination a denial of God's justice.

Another familiar objection against the doctrine of predestination is that this is not fair. It is not righteous of God to discriminate between men, electing and saving some while rejecting and condemning others.

The apostle Paul faces this objection against predestination in Romans 9:14, "What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God?" The very fact that men raise this objection against us indicates that we are maintaining the same doctrine defended by Paul.

What is our answer to this objection? The same as Paul's: "God forbid!" This objection might have validity if all men alike deserved salvation, but notwithstanding God chose and saved only some men. Then there might be room for the accusation that there is unrighteousness in God - God is not fair! But the case is quite different. The reality is that all men are unworthy of God's salvation. All men alike are fallen in Adam, and all men are conceived and born dead in sin. There is no injustice on God's part that out of the entire mass of fallen humanity, He should see fit to choose and save some. He is under no obligation to save any. That He should determine to save some is merely a matter of His sovereign mercy: "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion" (Rom. 9:15).

3. Predestination a denial of man's responsibility.

Yet another often heard objection against the Reformed doctrine of predestination is that it denies man's responsibility and leads to determinism and fatalism. If God has determined whether or not a man is saved and has decided the everlasting destiny of every man, we might as well live as we please. If we have been elected to salvation, we will be saved anyway. If we have been reprobated, there is nothing that we can do to change the will of God, neither can we really be held responsible for our sins.

This objection, too, is faced by Paul in Romans 9:19, "Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he (God) yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?" Once again, the very fact that people raise this same objection against us puts us in good company. It should be no surprise to us that since the apostle faced this objection regarding his teaching of predestination, we must also be faced with it.

What answer must we give to this objection? The same basic answer as Paul gave: "Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God?" Paul denies the right of puny man to make this objection. He goes on: "Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor?" (Rom. 9:20, 21). Two things remain true: God's sovereign predestination and man's full responsibility. Paul does not relinquish the doctrine of predestination, neither does he concede the objection that this teaching denies man's responsibility before God. Both are true. In a way that transcends our ability fully to explain or comprehend, God is sovereign, sovereign in determining the everlasting destiny of every man, and man remains a responsible, moral, rational creature.

Although the Scriptures are clear about it that God has eternally predestinated all things, they are equally clear in maintaining the full responsibility of the sinner. There are a couple of examples that bring this out. According toIsaiah 37:21-38, Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, invaded and destroyed Judah. This event had been ordained by God long before: "Hast thou not heard long ago, how I have done it; and of ancient times, that I have formed it? Now have I brought it to pass, that thou (Sennacherib) shouldest be to lay waste defenced cities into ruinous heaps" (Is. 37:26). But does the fact of God's predestination excuse Sennacherib's behavior? Not at all! God was angry with Sennacherib for his wickedness and punished him for it, even though He had pre-ordained it: "But I know thy abode, and thy going out, and thy coming in, and thy rage against me. Because thy rage against me, and thy tumult, is come up into mine ears, therefore will I put my hook in thy nose, and my bridle in thy lips, and I will turn thee back by the way which thou camest" (Is. 37:28, 29).

The outstanding example of God's sovereign predestination and man's responsibility is the crucifixion of Christ. In his sermon on Pentecost, Peter declared, "Him (Christ), being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain" (Acts 2:23). Christ's crucifixion took place according to the "determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God." But that did not in the least excuse or minimize the guilt of the "wicked hands" that took Christ and nailed Him to the cross.

E. Denials

Reformed Christians ought to be aware of and on their guard against various denials of predestination.

1. Free will.

Those who teach that natural man, man outside of and apart from the grace of God, is able to choose Jesus Christ and salvation are compelled to deny predestination. Historically this was true of the Pelagians and Arminians. According to those who hold to free will, the decisive choice for salvation is not God's choice but man's choice. All men are able so to choose, it is said. Election becomes conditional election. God in eternity simply looks down the corridors of history, sees who will choose Him and who will not, elects those who do and rejects the rest. Predestination is reduced to mere prescience. God chooses those who choose Him.

The folly of this teaching ought to be apparent. If salvation depended on man's choice, no man would be saved: "There is none righteous, no, not one. There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one" (Rom. 3:10-12). The teaching of the free will not only denies the total depravity of fallen man, but it is also an assault on God's sovereign predestination. In the clearest possible language Jesus declares in John 15:16, "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you and ordained you...."

2. Common grace.

Another serious attack upon the truth of predestination is the teaching of common grace. In large measure, the increasing silence concerning predestination and denial of it in Reformed and Presbyterian circles today is due to the acceptance of the teaching of common grace. A consistent confession of predestination cannot be made if one also holds to common grace. It is highly necessary that common grace be repudiated if there is to be a return to the teaching of predestination in these churches.

The teaching of common grace is that God loves all men with a certain non-saving love. God demonstrates this love for all men by giving them all of the good things of this present life. The result is that although God's saving love is discriminating, for some only, there is a love of God that embraces all men without distinction.

This is clearly contradictory. In eternity God hates and reprobates some men, but in time and history He loves all men. At the very least, this is a denial of God's unchangeableness. At the worst, it leads to an obvious contradiction in the direction of a denial of predestination, particularly reprobation.

This teaching of common grace cannot stand in the light of the Scriptures. In Psalm 5:5 we read, "The foolish shall not stand in thy sight: thou hatest (in the present) all the workers of iniquity." In Psalm 11:5 David declares, "The Lord trieth the righteous: but the wicked and him that loveth violence his soul hateth (in the present)." And in Proverbs 3:33 we are told, "The curse of the Lord is in the house of the wicked."

3. The free offer of the gospel.

The teaching known as the free offer or the well-meant offer of the gospel is also an implicit denial of sovereign predestination. According to this teaching God loves and sincerely desires the salvation of all men. Christ has died to make salvation possible for all men. And in the preaching of the gospel salvation is freely offered to all who hear the gospel. In the end salvation is dependent on whether or not a man accepts the gospel offer.

Now certainly, if God has eternally chosen some men unto salvation and rejected and reprobated the rest, it cannot also be true that God sincerely desires to save all men and offers salvation freely to all. Then, at the very least, this offer is not sincere. At the worst, God and His gospel are a failure. For who can deny that many to whom the gospel comes reject the gospel, are not saved by the gospel, but perish in their sin and unbelief? Notwithstanding God's love for them and His earnest desire to save them, they go lost. It ought not surprise us that in those churches and denominations where there has been acceptance of the teaching of the free offer, there has been a resultant and increasing repudiation of sovereign predestination.

It certainly is true that all who come under the preaching of the gospel are confronted with their duty before God to repent of their sins and are called (commanded) to faith in Jesus Christ. That is true. But it is quite another thing to tell all men that God loves them, desires to save them, and freely offers salvation to them.

How does this conception of the preaching of the gospel square with God's commission to the prophet Isaiah? Does God send Isaiah out to tell all men that He loves them and wants to save them? On the contrary: "Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed" (Is. 6:9, 10). Or listen to Christ's words, really a prayer of thanksgiving to God, in Matthew 11:25, 26, "At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things (of the kingdom) from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight." Or again, Paul's words in II Corinthians 2:14-16, "Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savor of his knowledge by us in every place. For we are unto God a sweet savor of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish: to the one we are the savor of death unto death; and to the other the savor of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things?"

F. Practical Implications

The doctrine of predestination and the consistent maintaining of this doctrine are of the greatest practical importance for the church. It is not true, as the enemies allege, that this doctrine is cold, lifeless, and of no practical value. True doctrine and upright living, both for the individual Christian and for a church, go hand in hand. This is especially true of the doctrine which stands at the heart of the gospel message: predestination. 

1. Predestination and the antithesis.

The faithful confession of the doctrine of predestination is vital for the life of the antithesis to which every child of God is called. Denial of predestination - as history shows - inevitably leads to a breakdown of the antithesis.

By the antithesis is meant the separation between the church and the world, and the spiritually separate life the Christian is called to live over against the world. We are to be in the world but not of the world. One forceful passage of Scripture which calls believers to the life of the antithesis is II Corinthians 6:14-17, "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come ye out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty."

The denial of predestination always results in an abandoning of the life of the antithesis. This is not difficult to understand. If God loves all men without distinction, then there is a common ground upon which believer and unbeliever can stand. There is room for making a common cause. Then, as some have put it, Jerusalem and Athens can be married. And the outcome is that the church becomes one with the world.

The practical implication of the doctrine of predestination, however, forbids the church making common cause with the world. To use the words of the prophet to king Jehoshaphat, who had sinfully made an alliance with wicked Ahab, "Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the Lord?" (II Chron. 19:2)

2. Predestination and the preaching of the gospel.

The truth of election provides the church with the motivation to preach the gospel in all the world, to every creature. The enemies of election charge that such a doctrine precludes the necessity and importance of the preaching of the gospel. If the elect have been eternally predestinated by God to salvation, it is alleged, there is no need for them to hear the gospel. They will be saved anyway. Sometimes it is even said that those who hold to the doctrine of predestination preach only to the elect.

At the worst this is a slanderous misrepresentation; at best it is a serious misunderstanding of the truth of election. Election in no way rules out the means by which God has ordained that the elect shall be brought to salvation, which means is the preaching of the gospel. The same God Who has ordained the elect unto salvation has also ordained the means by which they shall be brought to salvation and to the assurance of their election. The warning of the Canons of Dordt, III/IV, 17 is to the point:

... be it far from either instructors or instructed to presume to tempt God in the church by separating what He in His good pleasure hath most intimately joined together.

God has scattered the elect in every nation, tongue, and tribe under heaven. The means which He has ordained for their faith and salvation is the preaching of the gospel. Thus the church has the divine mandate to go into all the world and preach the gospel.

Nor must it be supposed that the preaching of the gospel serves no purpose with the reprobate who come under the preaching. On the contrary, they are confronted squarely with their duty and warned against their unbelief. Their rejection of the gospel serves to aggravate their guilt and leave them without excuse before God.

At the same time, the truth of election gives the church confidence in preaching the gospel, whether in the established congregation to the sons and daughters born in the church, or to the unsaved in missions. The elect will hear that preaching. By that preaching they will be brought to repentance and faith. The people of God will be saved. The church has that assurance as she preaches.

3. Predestination and humility.

The truth of election also gives reason for profound humility on the part of believers. Is there anything so needed in the church today as humility? The believer is humbled by the truth that his salvation is not due to anything he is or anything he has done but is due alone to the predestinating grace of God. The believer is humbled by the realization that he was not better than those whom God did not choose, indeed was involved in a common ruin. Salvation does not have its cause in us but alone in the will and good-pleasure of God. "Where is boasting then? It is excluded" (Rom. 3:27). If God's choice of us depended on our choice of Him, if our free will rather than the will of God was decisive for salvation, then we would have reason to boast in ourselves. The truth of sovereign, gracious election takes this possibility away. It is a truth that can but lead to humility in the life of one who sincerely confesses it.

4. Predestination and God's glory.

Not only does the truth of predestination remove every cause for glorying in self, it ascribes the glory for salvation to God. God has chosen us to salvation. God has delivered us from the common misery in which we had involved ourselves. God has determined everything needful for our salvation: the sending of His own Son, the preaching of the gospel, the work in us of the Holy Spirit. It is all of Him and nothing of us. To Him and to Him alone must be the glory: "For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever" (Rom. 11:36).

G. Relation to the Other Four Points

The truth of total depravity necessitates unconditional election. By nature man is dead in sin, capable neither of saving himself nor desiring to be saved. He is in no position to accomplish or to cooperate in his salvation. If man is really totally depraved - we must do justice to this truth - the cause of salvation must be in God, as the truth of election teaches that it is.

The truth of election also limits the scope of the death of Christ. Here there is perfect agreement between the will of the Father and the work of the Son. If some only are chosen to salvation, and Christ has died only for those whom God has chosen, Christ's death must be limited to some men only. His redemption is a particular redemption. He has not died, neither did He intend to die, for all men but for some only, for the elect.

If God has chosen us to salvation, so that the almighty will of God Himself rather than the fickle will of man stands behind our election, we may be certain that we shall be saved. No power of the devil, of the wicked world, or of ourselves is able to withstand the power of Almighty God. Hence, the truth of sovereign election implies the irresistibility of grace.

The doctrine of election also gives us confidence of our perseverance in faith and salvation. If my salvation depended on my will, my choice, my decision, then I could never have the assurance of perseverance. Always I would be in doubt whether the same will which brought me into salvation might also take me out of salvation. However, since the cause of my salvation does not rest in my own will but in the Almighty will of an unchangeable God, I can rest assured that I will persevere to the end. We may then be confident that the good work He has begun in us shall by the power of His grace be fully done (Phil. 1:6).

Questions from the Study Guide to aid in understanding and review.

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