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As the conclusion of this se­ries of editorials on the cov­enant of God in Christ with believers and their children, I sum up for the benefit of the reader what has come to light in the dis­cussion.

The editorials have been a re­sponse to an advocate of the doc­trine of a conditional covenant with every physical child of believers. This doctrine holds that God makes His covenant by promise with ev­ery child at baptism, but that the promise depends for its realization, or efficacy to save, upon a condi­tion that the child must fulfill. This condition is faith. If a child fails to fulfill the condition of faith, the promise is ineffectual. It cannot give the child the eternal life that it has promised to the child. Thus, the child breaks the covenant that God established with him at baptism.

This doctrine of the covenant has become popular, perhaps the prevailing one, in Reformed and Presbyterian churches today.

With refreshing and commend­able candor, the advocate of a con­ditional covenant freely acknowl­edged that this doctrine of the cov­enant holds that God loves every physical child of believing parents with His covenant love in Jesus Christ. To this love belongs, natu­rally, that God sincerely desires to save every physical child of believ­ers.

There is then a covenant love of God in Christ for many children who are not saved by this love, but perish in spite of it.

At baptism, God is supposed to express a desire to save every baptized child, which desire goes unfulfilled and disappointed in many instances.

A conditional covenant teaches that God’s grace in Jesus Christ is universal within the sphere of the families of believers. Inasmuch as the grace of this covenant is uni­versal, it is also resistible and inef­fectual. Many to whom the grace is extended are not, in fact, saved by it. God loved Esau, desired to save him, promised him salvation in the blood of Christ, and made

His covenant with him by promise at circumcision, just as with Jacob. But Esau is in hell.

Rev. Cecil Tuininga has been candid.

But he has merely expressed openly what is, in fact, necessarily implied in the doctrine of a condi­tional covenant, whether men can­didly acknowledge it or not. Men may not always have seen this clearly. Others, knowing full well that the doctrine of a conditional covenant conflicts with Dordt’s (and the Bible’s!) teaching of par­ticular grace, studiously avoid an open declaration of their condi­tional principles. But a promise to all alike, establishing the covenant with all alike, means grace to all alike.

Resistible grace.

Ineffectual grace.

Grace that depends squarely on the work of the child fulfilling a condition.

That about a conditional cov­enant which makes absolutely cer­tain that it will, indeed must, teach universal, resistible grace is that the doctrine of a conditional cov­enant refuses to allow the covenant to be governed by divine election. If God’s saving operations in the covenant are not controlled by elec­tion, covenant grace must be uni­versal.

With this grievous error goes another, which is, if possible, still worse: the conditional covenant re­fuses to recognize Jesus Christ as head of the new covenant. The conditional covenant is headless! As though Romans 5:12ff. were not in Scripture. But if God’s saving dealings in the covenant are not in Christ, as head of the new cov­enant, covenant grace must be uni­versal, must be wider than Christ and His elect body, the church.

Rev. Cecil Tuininga has been candid, that is, honest and above­board. He is also correct in his un­derstanding of his own covenant-view.

Others now begin to say the same. Dr. Jelle Faber, in the recent book, American Secession Theologians on Covenant and Baptism & Extra-Scriptural Binding—A New Danger (Inheritance, 1996), admits that the conditional covenant of the Cana­dian Reformed Churches and the Reformed Churches in the Nether­lands (“liberated”) is essentially the same as the covenant-doctrine of Christian Reformed theologian Wil­liam Heyns. But Heyns taught that in baptism God gives to every child “subjective grace,” that is, the in­ner, spiritual power of the Holy Spirit of Christ. This grace enables every child to believe in Jesus Christ, if only he chooses to do so. Some, of course (according to Heyns), choose not to use this grace. They perish.

Grace for all.

Dependent for its success upon the will of man.

In defending the conditional covenant, Rev. Tuininga appealed especially to three texts: Matthew 23:37; II Peter 3:9; and I Timothy 2:3, 4.

This too is important. For these texts, especially the last two, are supposed to teach that God loves and desires to save all men with­out exception. The appeal to these texts on behalf of a conditional cov­enant shows that the doctrine of a conditional covenant is, in reality, the introduction of the heresy of a universal, ineffectual love of God and a frustrated will of God to save all without exception into the sphere of the covenant.

Why would a Reformed man appeal to II Peter 3:9 and to I Timo­thy 2:3, 4 in defense of a condi­tional covenant with the children of believers?

One and the same theology is at work in both the doctrine of a conditional covenant and the doc­trine that God offers salvation to all out of His love for all and with a desire to save all. This is the the­ology that makes the grace of God dependent upon an act of man. It is the theology of “conditional grace.”

Rev. Tuininga insisted on the conditionality of salvation, whether within the covenant or without. With unerring insight into the na­ture of his own theology, he saw conditions and conditionality as the basic issue.

If he merely meant by “condi­tion” that faith is the necessary means by which God gives, and the elect receive, salvation, he would get no argument from us, although we would plead for a better word.

If by “condition” he only had in mind that the God who gives faith to His elect (and faith is in every respect a purely gracious gift of God!) also commands them to be active in believing, he would find us in agreement. Indeed, we maintain that God commands all who hear the gospel to believe, not only the children born to believing parents.

But this is not his meaning. For him, faith is the act of the child upon which the covenant of God de­pends. For him, faith is the act of the child that renders the promise ef­fectual. For him, faith is the act of the child that explains why the grace that is extended to all alike saves some, but fails to save others.

In the conditional covenant, grace is not “through” faith, but “on account of faith.

Against this, it is the message of the gospel that a “conditional grace” is not the grace of God at all. “And if by grace, then is it 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” (Rom. 11:6).

God’s salvation in Jesus Christ is unconditional. All of it. From beginning, in eternal election, to end, in the resurrection of the body.

Christ’s death for me did not depend upon a condition that I must fulfill. The Holy Spirit’s regeneration of me was not due to any condition that I had to fulfill. I am not justified because of any condition that I have fulfilled. The resurrection of my body into life in the Day of Christ will not be con­ditioned by any act or worth of mine.

And this is true of all of my salvation because all of my salva­tion has its eternal origin in God’s unconditional election of me in Jesus Christ. Out of an uncondi­tional election flows an uncondi­tional salvation.

Such also is the salvation that God works in the covenant in the generations of believing parents.

The English Calvinist theolo­gian Augustus M. Toplady gave ex­pression to the truth of the unconditionality of the covenant of grace:

God’s covenant love to us in Christ is another stream, flowing from the fountain of unmingled grace. And here, as in the pre­ceding instance, every truly awak­ened person disclaims all title to praise…. How is it possible that either God’s purposes, or that his covenant concerning us, can be in any respect whatsoever suspended on the will or the works of men; seeing both his purposes and his covenant were framed, and fixed, and agreed upon, by the persons in the Trinity, not only before men existed, but before angels them­selves were created, or time itself was born? All was vast eternity, when grace was federally given us in Christ ere the world began…. Repentance and faith, new obedi­ence and perseverance, are not conditions of interest in the cov­enant of grace (for then it would be a covenant of works); but con­sequences and tokens of covenant interest (“Free Will and Merit Fairly Examined,” in The Works of Augustus Toplady, London: J. Cornish, 1853, p. 356).

As Luther said about the term “merit,” so must it be said about the term “condition” as it is used in the theology of a conditional covenant: “Away with that pro­fane, impious word!” It is the en­emy of grace.

I urge the reader who regards the truth of God’s covenant with our children as vital to buy and read carefully the new edition of Herman Hoeksema’s Believers and Their Seed: Children in the Cov­enant, soon to be published by the Reformed Free Publishing Associa­tion.

If Rev. Cecil Tuininga would read it, I will happily send him a copy as a gift.

—DJE