This article first appeared in the July 1, 1975 issue of The Standard Bearer (Vol.51, issue 18).
Last time we pointed out that when a church that has the live points of Calvinism as its confession adds the first point of "Common Grace," it loses that first point of Calvinism, namely, total depravity. For one who maintained the truth that man is spiritually dead loses that truth the minute that this one speaks of a man with ability to perform a work. And "Common Grace" in its first point speaks of a man who can accept and consider an offer of the Gospel, and in the third point speaks of an ability that the unregenerate has whereby he is able to do something in the sphere of the civil that is good in God's sight.
At this time I like to show that this "offer of the Gospel" takes away the remaining points of Calvinism as well and leaves you with nothing of the Reformed faith when you adopt and maintain the three points of "Common Grace."
The second point of Calvinism is unconditional election. And that according to Scripture means that God chose His people eternally, before they could do good or evil and entirely apart from any conditions of doing good or evil. Paul says that of Jacob and Esau, before they were born, in Romans 9:11-13. But the "offer" of salvation to all who hear the preaching of the Gospel makes it an election in time and on the condition that man accepts the offer. In fact, it makes it a human election that follows the fulfilling of a condition by man. After all, an offer always depends upon the one to whom the offer is given. He really determines whether it is accepted or not. And thus man elects himself. You say that as soon as you say that God offers him salvation in the Gospel. You say that the one to whom the offer is made decides whether or not he will become an elect. That is human election, which decides for God who the elect will be; and it is also a conditional election. And this point of an offer of salvation in the Gospel to all who hear, of which the first point of "Common Grace" speaks, causes the whole second point of Calvinism, which teaches an unconditional and eternal, divine election to disappear into nothingness. The first point of "Common Grace" added to the second point of Calvinism results in zero as far as Reformed truth is concerned. You have to choose between the first point of "Common Grace" and the second point of Calvinism. You cannot maintain both.
The third point of Calvinism is limited, or better, particular, atonement. And it means that Christ atoned for our sins, and atoned only for the sins of the elect. The Saviour received His name, Jesus, exactly because He would "save His people from their sins." He said Himself, "I lay down my life for the sheep." In John 17:9 Jesus also says, "I pray for them: I pray not for the world." Certainly here we have a very limited group for whom Jesus prays. And if salvation were prepared for all who hear the preaching of the Gospel, why does Jesus not pray for all who hear it? And having maintained an unconditional election of totally depraved men, one would have to maintain an atonement that was only for these elect.
But what does the first point of "Common Grace" do to this atonement? In the "offer of the Gospel" it denies, fast of all, that it is atonement. An offer speaks of a possible atonement, or a possible escape from guilt and punishment to receive glory. But whether this will be or not depends again on the acceptance of the offer. Christ did not really pay for these sins, He only made it possible that they be paid for. For it is also quite plain from "an offer of the Gospel" that some to whom it is offered do not have such an atonement. If Christ really atones for the sins of some, and He did, then it can no longer be offered to them. It is theirs. The first point of "Common Grace" offers salvation and atonement to some who will not receive it. Then it is not actual atonement, and then it is not limited only to the elect but to all who hear the offer. And to the confession of the third point of Calvinism, the first point of "Common Grace's" offer of the Gospel, and you have lost that truth of limited atonement. The first point of "Common Grace" added. to the third point of Calvinism results in zero of the Reformed faith.
The same is true of irresistible grace; for it lies in the very nature of an offer that it can be resisted. If it cannot be resisted it is no more an offer. And then it is no more grace either, but by accepting one deserves the object offered. He makes himself worthy. But an efficacious call is by no means an offer; and God does not leave the size and the constituency of His church to man's whims and willingness to accept an offer. God calls irresistibly in His grace and never gets Himself in a position where He may be frustrated and disappointed. Let us not add the first point of "Common Grace" to the fourth point of Calvinism, for we will have nothing of Reformed truth left, if we do.
And the same holds true of the fifth point of Calvinism, namely, the perseverance of the saints. For it depends upon the second, third and fourth points of Calvinism. Because God chose unconditionally and saves only these by an irresistible grace, there is a perseverance of the saints to the very end. And since "Common Grace" with its "offer" denies these three previous points of Calvinism, it also negates the fifth when it speaks of an "offer of the Gospel." Take and keep the five points, and throw away the three, if you want to have Reformed doctrine and the truth and true comfort.
A SUBTRACTION THAT MULTIPLIES
Quite plainly, then, the adoption of this theory (for that is all that it is, a man-made theory that is not supported by the Word of God) multiplies the heresies that have come into this world. Arminianism with its offer of salvation had been in the world for a long time. In fact it was the Synod of Dordrecht. in 1618 and 1619 that drew up the Canons to defend the truth and show the error of Arminianism. But now in 1924 was added another aspect to this error. And being a denomination of goodly size, there was a multiplication of the churches that now sided in with Arminianism and spoke of the offer of salvation to all who hear the preaching. The theory took away the truth from these churches, and today has led them even farther away from the truth to corrupt also the truth of God's love, and to deny very openly the limited atonement of the Scriptures. Formerly the mother church was a bastion of the Reformed faith, a group of churches that staunchly defended those five points of Calvinism and preached them with vigor and conviction. But suddenly by official decision all these churches through their Synod become defenders of Arminianism with its conditional theology. And there was a multiplication of the congregations that now were in the Arminian camp. This does not mean that every member in the mother church was willing to take all the implications of this lie, but it does mean that officially and through the Synod all these churches cast away the five points to adopt the three when they adopted the three points of "Common Grace."
Multiplied, too, were the number of heresies now being defended in the church world. Basically the lie is always the same. But each time there is a doctrinal controversy that lie has appeared in a new garb and form. And in 1924 this was also the case. The grace of God was now under attack and was pressed into the service of Arminianism. In 1618 and 1619 Arminianism stressed the error that faith is the condition which God stipulated for the obtaining of salvation. Condemning this, the Canons in I, B, 2 reject the errors of those who maintain that God 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 incomplete obedience as a condition of salvation." That was the form the Synod of 1618 had to fight. But in 1924 it became a more subtle approach of God's favor upon His creatures in general as is plain(?) from the offer of the Gospel. A new twist to the old lie multiplied the errors that the child of God now had to fight and to reject.
A MULTIPLICATION THAT DIVIDES
On the other side of the picture there was a multiplication of the number of denominations in Protestantism which further divided the churches that came out of the great Reformation. A new denomination that at the beginning in 1925 numbered only three churches came into being. And Protestantism that came out of Roman Catholicism was splintered even further. There had through the years been a multiplication of groups and factions in Protestantism. Now there is a further division, a further split and splintering because that lie of "Common Grace" may not be maintained. O, yes, this denomination came into being also because unjustly and illegally they were put out of the mother church. It was not their desire to divide and separate. But they had no choice in the matter. They were declared out; and they had to oppose that Arminianism that had been introduced in a new garb. We had to be separate in order to keep the five points of Calvinism. We saw by God's grace that to adopt the three points would be to lose the five of the Reformed truth.
And, sad to say, as so often is the case in reformations, there was the dividing of families and separation of friends. Families were tom apart and members went in different directions. Some stayed with mother church, and others felt compelled to leave and defend the truth. Friends parted and were friends no more. That is what happens when an addition is made that actually subtracts and, subtracting, multiplies the errors and denominations.
This is not the most serious consequence. The serious element always is that God is denied His glory. He becomes a weak beggar Who can only offer and so often is disappointed. And for the glory of God we must maintain the truth, no matter how it divides our families and makes separation between what formerly were friends. No heresy must divide us and separate us from God. But we may not allow in our midst any teaching or doctrine of man that separates God from His glory. And therefore we must keep the five and reject the three. For five are worth more than zero. And zero we surely will get if we add the three of "Common Grace" to the five of Calvinism.
Rev. John A. Heys was born on March 16, 1910 in Grand Rapids, MI. He was ordained and installed into the ministry at Hope, Walker, MI in 1941. He later served at Hull, Iowa beginning in 1955. In 1959 he accepted the call to serve the South Holland, IL Protestant Reformed Church. He received and accepted the call to Holland, Michigan Protestant Reformed Church in 1967. He retired from the active ministry in 1980. He entered into glory on February 16, 1998.