Last time we considered Christ’s description of the condition of the church at Laodicea (Rev. 3:15-17) as background for a text abused in favour of Arminianism: "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me" (20).
There are at least three errors in the popular misconception. (1) Christ, it is said, knocks at the door of the sinner’s heart earnestly desiring admission—the error of the free offer, that God wants to save everybody. (2) Christ knocks on everybody’s heart yearning for admission trying all He can to get the sinner to open to him—resistible grace condemned in the third/fourth heads of the Canons of Dordt. (3) Thus the salvation of the sinner rests ultimately on his free will—that proud, old Pelagian heresy.
All this betrays a false conception of the sinner. The apostle declares, "There is none that seeketh after God" (Rom. 3:11) and "the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be" (8:7), so how can a sinner embrace Christ without almighty, sovereign grace? And how could a minister with any understanding of the Scriptures ever preach free will? Does he not know the depravity of the human heart, his own included? Christ has just been describing the fallen nature of man. He is spiritually "wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked" (Rev. 3:17)—five adjectives, heaped up one after another, each one a hammer blow to any good in man without sovereign grace!
Along with this goes a lie about Christ Himself. He is presented as a poor beggar begging admission into the heart of the sinner. And if the sinner won’t open to Him, He walks away sad without fellowship and shelter. Thus Arminianism makes a begging bowl out of the Son of God. But verse 17 describes fallen man as the beggar ("poor") who is "naked," "wretched" and "miserable"—and not the glorious Son of God! He is "the Amen, the faithful and true witness" (14). Christ’s witness is that fallen man is a beggar (17). This is the faithful witness preachers must give. Teaching some native ability in man is an unfaithful and false witness, and God will punish for it! Christ’s witness of Himself is that He is "the beginning of the creation of God" (14)—the source and author of the entire universe (John 1:1; Col. 1:15-17)—and the One seated with His Father on His throne (22). He is not a beggar but the great Creator and King!
Christ is the One possessing and exercising "the key of David ... that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth" (Rev. 3:7). He is the priest-king (Ps. 110:1, 4) who makes His people "willing in the day of [His] power" (3). He is the One who opens hearts so that His elect attend to the preaching of the Word (Acts 16:14). Thus the implied calling in Revelation 3:20 to "hear" Christ’s voice and to "open the door" teaches us man’s duty and not man’s natural ability.
Now that the Arminian view is ruled out, we shall consider the positive explanation of Revelation 3:20 next time (DV).
- Volume: 9
- Issue: 11
Rev. Angust Stewart (Wife: Mary)
Ordained - 2001
Pastorates: Covenant Protestant Reformed Church of Ballymena, Northern Ireland - 2001Website: www.cprf.co.uk/
Address7 Lislunnan Road
State or ProvinceCo.Antrim
Zip CodeBT42 3NR
Telephone(01144) 28 25 891851