First, brother, I wish to reflect upon your article which appeared in the Concordia of Feb. 16, 1950, page 4. I quote the following paragraph which appears at the beginning of this article: “The reader may recall that at one time the Rev. Veldman demanded that we ban the concept of conditions. And I showed with reference to writings from him and from the Revs. Hoeksema and Ophoff that such banning as heretical would also adversely affect the Revs. Hoeksema and Ophoff and himself.” This paragraph, therefore, asserts that I, denying the concept, “conditions”, contradict what I wrote in past writings. Will you please show me where I advocated this concept? I would appreciate it if you were to quote these statements which you declare that I made, fully and in their context, if they appear in numbers of Concordia? I ask this because I do not have all the past Concordias. If these statements can be found in the Standard Bearer, just refer me to the statements as such, if you please, and where they appear. I recall that you, in the past, referred to a paragraph in one of my Standard bearer articles in which I quote a paragraph of Prof. Berkhof. But I also remember that I called your attention to the fact that you erred when you interpreted my quoting the professor as an indorsement of the use of “conditions”.
Secondly, your implied charge that I do not preach a “full-orbed” gospel has remained unaltered until this day. You will recall that a “full-orbed” gospel, according to your opinion, must contain the element of conditions. I replied at the time by saying that my preaching has been devoid of the use of this terminology, presented to you a summary of my preaching, and asked you what I lacked in my preaching. Thereupon you discovered that the word “faith” did not appear in my summary, and this, you declared, might have been due to a vital lack of my preaching. I am sure that you realize that the element of faith is not lacking in my preaching. This is made plain to you. Fact is that I, in that summary, merely wished to call attention to the fact that we must hear and see and walk and talk, etc., but that all this is due to the fact that Christ makes us to hear and see and walk and talk etc. At the time I also asked you what you understood by faith, inasmuch as, evidently, it is exactly this element of faith which constitutes such a vital element in a “full-orbed” gospel preaching. Now I wish to set forth in this article, more elaborately, that the Scriptures deny the element of conditions. And I will do so with the question constantly before me, and which I now repeat to you: Brother, what do I lack? As a preacher of the gospel, I surely desire to preach a “full-orbed” gospel. The question, therefore, concerns me.
From, the Old Testament.
First, I would call your attention, and also the attention of all our readers, to the fact that several of the “if clauses” in the Old Testament have been explained in the Standard Bearer by the Rev. Ophoff. You have called attention to these clauses in the Bible without any explanation. You have not made a single attempt to refute the Rev. Ophoff’s detailed explanation of these Scriptural passages. This I hardly consider ethical. We should certainly bear in mind that the Rev. Ophoff set himself unto the explanations of these texts after you referred to them in your Concordia articles. You should also bear in mind that these articles reveal much painstaking effort on the part of Rev. Ophoff. It certainly is your duty to refute these articles of Rev. Ophoff, at least, Rev. Ophoff’s exegesis of these various passages, and not to continue to quote them (without any explanation) and simply ignore Rev. Ophoff’s explanation of them. Until you refute Rev. Ophoff, our readers must surely accept his interpretation of them over against your complete lack of exegesis.
Secondly, I wish to call attention to a few passages from the Old Testament. We understand, of course, that these few passages can be multiplied, although I consider them of great importance. The first passage which I would quote is: “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” I do not quote this passage, brother, or any other passage, because I proceed from the assumption that you deny these passages or have difficulty with them. It is merely my purpose to call attention to them and bring them sharply to your attention and that of our readers. This text is important. It is a key passage. It explains all of history. This text simply ascribes the struggle of all ages to the living God. It is the Lord Who sets enmity between the seed of the devil and that of the woman. He alone! I declare, therefore, brother Petter, that the spiritual struggle of the ages, as according to , has its sole cause in the everlasting God. He establishes His friendship in our hearts and lives, and He does it alone. He alone is sovereignly responsible for the continuous struggle between the forces of light and darkness, sets them in enmity over against each other, and He does it unconditionally! The desire to fight the good fight of faith, and the desire to fight that good fight of faith even until the end, is solely of the Lord. Or, if we may state this truth in New Testament language: It is given unto us, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His Name’s sake. You believe this, do you not? Hence, what do I lack?
Another truth of the Old Testament to which I would call attention is the introduction to the law of God as given to Israel from Mount Sinai. The Lord introduces the law with the statement: “I am the Lord thy God, Which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage”. Here you have the Lord’s giving of His law to His people, Israel. And you may also regard this introduction as applying to the entire law, the ceremonial and civil included. And the Lord introduces His law by calling Israel’s attention to their deliverance. And I expect to show that the New Testament does the very same thing. Hence, our obedience to the law rests upon our deliverance. And every Sabbath this same law is read in our churches, always introduced by these words. Consequently, our obedience is the fruit of God’s deliverance, and therefore unconditional. Have you any objection?
Thirdly, I would call your attention to the Divine purpose of the law as held before us in. It is true that this text is found in the New Testament, but, then, it refers to the Old Dispensation. In this text we read: “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith”. This signifies, I am sure, that God gave Israel His law in order to impress upon His people the truth that salvation is solely in and through Christ. To be sure, the law as such led the people of God to Christ in the sense that the shadows and symbols pointed to the Christ. But it is just as true that the very contents of that law emphasized the truth that Israel’s only hope lay exclusively in the blood of the coming Christ. Or, if you will: the purpose of the law was to emphasize the truth of the unconditionality of salvation.
Finally, not to quote any more passages from the Old Testament, I preach fully what we read in: “Say ye to the righteous, that it shall be well with him: for they shall eat the fruit of their doings. Woe unto the wicked! it shall be ill with him: for the reward of his hands shall be given him”. We say to the righteous that it shall be well with him, and unto the wicked that it shall be ill with him. The righteous is he who has been rendered righteous by the Lord. This also implies that, because he is righteous, he must walk righteously, and that, therefore, only as in the way of righteousness he shall experience the good. The wicked we must command to repent in the Name of the Lord, and to him must be proclaimed nothing but ill. Will you please show us that, to do this text justice, I must preach “conditions”. I preach this text without conditions, in fact, with the repudiation of conditions. Is my preaching a “full-orbed” gospel? I am serious about this, brother. Preaching this to the righteous and to the wicked, what do I lack? What would you say, in connection with a text such as which would be lacking in my presentation of the text?
Passages from the New Testament which stress the Truth that Our Calling is the Fruit of the Grace of God.
I Corinthians 15:58.
This passage reads: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the word of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”
I am particularly interested now in the word, “therefore”, which introduces this passage of God’s Word. This word expresses the idea that this text is a conclusion based upon the preceding. We read in the preceding text: “But thanks be to God, Which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ”. Hence, our calling as expressed in verse 58 rests upon the fact that we have the victory in Christ Jesus. Our calling, therefore, to be stedfast, etc., is the fruit of this victory, and this victory is a pure gift, because for it we give thanks unto God Who gives us this victory. Hence, no conditionality here, but fruit.
II Corinthians 6:17.
We read: “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you”.
Again I am interested in the word, “wherefore”, which introduces this text. Also in this text the apostle expresses a conclusion which is based upon the foregoing. And in that preceding text we read: “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”. We should note the following. “Ye are the temple of the living God”. Paul here expresses a fact. And they are the temple of the living God because the Lord has said that He would dwell in them and walk in them. This is a divine speaking, an almighty speaking, a speaking whereby God irresistibly establishes His dwelling in them and with them. Therefore they are to come out from among them. Hence, our calling to come out from among them again rests upon the Lord’s work in us. We repeat: no conditionality, but fruit.
We read: “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.”
Surely, this text speaks for itself. Notice, please, that we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works. Hence, these good works are the fruit of His creative work in us. Besides, these works have been foreordained. And, to lay all possible emphasis upon this truth, the apostle declares that our faith is a gift of God. Upon this latter thought we will have something to say later. But again I have shown from the Scriptures that our calling, our walk in all good works is presented as the fruit of the work of God. Fruit, no conditions. To say that the Lord saves me upon the condition of faith, or gives me the enjoyment of salvation upon the condition of faith is the same, is it not, as to say that the Lord saves me on the condition that He does it alone? Permit me to shorten this by saying: God saves me all alone.
We will not quote this somewhat lengthy passage. Attention could be called to many things in this Word of God. In this passage the Church of God is admonished not to walk as the children of disobedience, not to be partakers with them (verse 7). And, this admonition the apostle bases, in verse 8, upon the truth that, although we were sometimes darkness, we have become light in the Lord, and that, therefore, we must walk as children of light. In this text we have the complete gospel for the Church of the living God. We were sometimes darkness. We have become light in the Lord. We must walk as children of light. And we must walk as children of light because of the fact that we have become light in the Lord. Again we repeat: no conditionality, but fruit.
We read: “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.”
I will have opportunity to return to this remarkable text. I just wish to quote it now, and call attention to the fact that it is the Lord Who works in us both to will and to do. And this He does of His good pleasure, that is, for the sake of His good pleasure, that the Lord’s good pleasure may receive all the praise and the honour.
We read: “But Esaias is very bold, and saith, I was found of them that sought Me not; I was made manifest unto them that asked not after Me”.
Some time ago, brother Petter, I called your attention to this text, and asked you to harmonize the doctrine of conditions with it. Until now, you have not acceded to my request. But please notice, also in this text, that the work of the Lord is presented here unconditionally. Fact is, the Lord is found of them who sought Him not, and was made manifest unto them who asked not after Him.
I John 4:10.
We read in this text: “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”
This passage speaks for itself, does it not? Herein is not love that we loved God. But that He loved us. The line of salvation is always vertical, never runs from the bottom to the top, from man unto God, but always from the top to the bottom, from the living God to us. And we understand, I am sure, that God’s love is always first, throughout our entire lives. The Lord always finds us as sinners, as people who hate Him. We hate Him, always and constantly. And He loves us, first, always and constantly. Conditions? Where?
These passages, brother, can easily be multiplied. This you know. Is it possible to preach on these passages conditionally? However, if these texts rule out the element of conditions, then this element is ruled out by the Scriptures, because the Word of God is not in conflict with itself.
The Line of Salvation, from the beginning to the end, presented in Holy Writ as Unconditional.
This is already emphasized in a text such as: “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.”
This, to be sure, is a striking passage. It is such because it presents to us the entire chain of salvation, from the foreknowledge of the Lord even unto our glorification. And it must be perfectly evident that this entire way of salvation is ascribed exclusively to the Lord. Please note the repetition of the pronoun, “He”. And this, brother, includes everything. It includes our salvation, objectively and subjectively and consciously, everything. And it is attributed to the living God. Conditions? Where?
However, let us call attention to this fact somewhat in detail. First, our salvation is presented in Holy Writ as solely determined by the unchangeable and sovereign counsel of the Lord. That salvation is, therefore, rooted in God’s eternal thoughts. I need not, of course, prove from Holy Writ the doctrine of election. Only, I wish to show at this time that the Scriptures emphasize the sovereignty and unconditionality of this counsel. We read, for example, in: “My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure.” This is important. The Lord’s counsel shall stand. Why? Because He will do all His pleasure. And He will do all His pleasure. This means everything. All our faith and hoping and loving, all our sorrowing and laughter, all our fighting and struggling, etc. And the Lord will do it, He alone. Besides, the sovereignty of the counsel of the Lord is also emphasized by . Who hath been the counsellor of the Lord? Or, who hath first given to the Lord, that it then should be recompensed unto him again? God is first, strictly and always. This would be enough to make the doctrine of conditions impossible. How can there be such a thing if the Lord does all His pleasure, and if He is solely responsible, therefore, for whatever takes place in the midst of this world?
Secondly, the doctrine of conditions is also impossible because of what the [Scriptures teach us in connection with the suffering and death of our Lord. We are born, also conceived, hopelessly lost in misery and guilt. We read in: “And He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor: therefore His arm brought salvation unto Him; and His righteousness, it sustained Him. For He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and an helmet of salvation upon His head; and He put on the garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a cloke.” What a passage! Need we emphasize that the Scripture here presents our utter hopelessness, and that our salvation has been wrought solely by the arm of the Lord? However, this is not all. Scripture not only teaches us the truth of man’s utter hopelessness and guilt. It does not merely teach us that we are by nature estranged from the living God, strangers with respect to the fellowship of the Lord. But, the unconditionality of our redemption through the cross receives further emphasis when we note that the Lord loved us while we were sinners. It is not only true that there was no man to effect deliverance, but we do not desire such deliverance. The Christ of God dwelt among us. He stood before us and proclaimed unto us, hopelessly lost sinners, that salvation is alone possible through His flesh and blood. And we killed Him! We spit in His face, scourged His back, put a crown of thorns upon His head, nailed Him to the accursed tree. And, He loved us. He did not merely love and save us in spite of our enmity, but through our enmity. But, the fact remains that our redemption upon the cross of Golgotha was affected by the living God, by the arm of Jehovah, not merely in spite of our enmity and hatred, but through that hatred and enmity. Conditions? I pray you, where are they? And I wish to state right now that if the work of redemption upon the cross is unconditional, then the entire way of salvation is unconditional. It is not true that one part of salvation is unconditional and that another part of that salvation is conditional. The salvation of the living God never reaches us except as condemnable, wicked, hopelessly lost and vile sinners. However, there is more, much more.
Thirdly, may I call attention to the fact that, when the Lord bestows that salvation of the cross upon us, we always receive it as hopelessly corrupt and dead sinners. Surely, I need not dwell at length upon this point. In the past, I have called attention to the fact that the sicknesses which Christ’s cures are striking because we always read of the dead, the blind, the deaf, the lame, etc. What this means we all understand. It means that by nature we are spiritually deaf, blind, lame, etc. We cannot hear, see, walk, etc. We are conceived and born dead in sins and trespasses. This also renders the doctrine of conditionality impossible. The remonstrants because of their theory that man can of himself will the good, feverishly clung to their theory of conditions. But we believe that man is of himself dead and blind and deaf. This means that salvation can never begin in him, that nothing can proceed from him upon which the Lord would begin His work. This also explains why the Scriptures emphasize that all our willing and doing is the fruit of the grace of the Lord, as we have shown from many passages. Consequently, I submit to you, brother Petter, the truth that also the beginning of the work of salvation is us is strictly unconditional, proceeds wholly from the Lord.
Fourthly, I would call attention to the fact that, according to Scripture, the means whereby we receive salvation is wholly of the Lord. I refer to the means of faith. I have already quoted. We are told in that passage that faith is a gift of God. And, intercepting the carnal objection that this faith should be ascribed, in some small measure, to man, we are told emphatically that it is not of works lest any man should boast. To be sure, we must believe. We must hope and love, etc. However, faith is a gift of God. To say that my conscious enjoyment of salvation is contingent upon faith is surely not the same as the doctrine of conditions. The doctrine of conditions does not refer to the way in which I enjoy the blessedness of salvation, but to the condition on which the Lord bestows that salvation. To say that God gives salvation on the condition of faith implies that we divorce that salvation from faith and render the work of God dependent upon faith. On the other hand, to declare that my enjoyment of salvation depends upon faith means that we can receive and enjoy salvation only as a sovereign gift from the living God. But, we should please bear in mind that also faith is presented in Holy Writ as the gift of God. This, however, is not yet all.
Fifthly, all our walk of life is presented in the Scriptures as the fruit of the Spirit of the Lord. We have already called attention to various passages in the Word of God. But, in this connection we would once more remind our readers of. Notice, please, that we read in that text that it is God Who works in us both the willing and the doing. Hence, our entire life, all our believing and hoping, etc., is presented here as the fruit of the work of the Lord in us. Surely we must will and do. We must hope and believe and pray. We must fight the good fight of faith even unto the end. We must seek and knock and ask. We must hold fast to that which we have. We must run the race, seek the things which are above and not the things which are below. We must put off the old man and put on the new man. We must come to Jesus and seek all our salvation in Him. We must oppose the wicked world which lieth in darkness and manifest ourselves as children of the light. But, remember, it is God Who works in us both to will and to do. Hence, our entire conscious life is presented here as the fruit of the living God. Conditions? No, but fruit. And therefore an obligation which rests upon us as such reborn and changed children of the living God.
One more thing. So that there may not be a single stone unturned, not a single straw to which vain man may cling, the Scriptures also emphasize the truth that the entire way of the perseverance of the saints is ascribed to the living God. Listen! I read in: “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.” And the same truth is held before us in : “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 means that Christ has received the commission from the Father to save all those who have been given Him of the Father and to raise them up at the last day. In other words, the salvation of the elect is the work of God in Christ from the beginning even unto the end. And, finally, when life’s journey has been completed, when we shall have fought the good fight, have run the course, have kept the faith, then also the Lord shall not fail us; then He will take us through that final valley of death and give us the crown of everlasting life and victory, as we read it in : “Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing.” And in that day we shall realize, as we have never realized before, that the doctrine of conditions was a human invention, and that our salvation was purely the work of the Lord, from the beginning even unto the very end.
Some Concluding Remarks.
Brother Petter, I have not written this because you do not know these things. What I have done in this article you know. I have attempted, in brief, to follow, from the beginning to the end, the way of our salvation. I have referred to this salvation from the subjective as well as the objective point of view. And I have shown, upon the basis of Holy Writ, that this entire way of salvation is presented in Holy Writ as the work of [he Lord, for us and in us and through us. First,
I would ask you: Why do you persist in saying that the Fathers made liberal use of the term “conditions”, and ignore the pertinent observation of the late Professor Bavinck, which you may find in his Reformed Dogmatics, Volume III, page 225, and I quote: “In the first period the Reformed freely spoke of conditions of the covenant. But when the nature of the covenant was more deeply thought into and had to be defended against Roman Catholics, Lutherans, and Remonstrants, many in their hearts objected to the usage of that language and avoided it.” Does this observation of the late Professor mean nothing to you?
Secondly, you deny in your article in Concordia of February 16, 1950 that you ever wrote that the covenant is conditional. Yet, you did write, according to a quotation from your article, see Volume 25 of the Standard Bearer, page 850, of “conditions of the covenant”. What do you mean?
Thirdly, you agree with me, do you not, on the following:
Finally, you have stated in past articles that the element of “conditions” constitutes a vital part of a “full-orbed gospel”. I have presented in this article the entire way of salvation as unconditional. Consequently, I lack something in my preaching, and, hence, my preaching falls short of a “full-orbed” gospel preaching. Will you please point out to me and to all our readers what we lack? For this question you must assume responsibility. I do not think that you will deny this. And, in this connection, I would also suggest to you that you give some consideration to Rev. Ophoff’s painstaking explanation of the “if” clauses in Holy Writ.