The second article of the Rev. Doekes appeared in De Reformatie of July 5, 1947, which article our editor wants me to publish, together with my translation.

The article reads as follows:


Here follows the translation:

Unto Whom Is The Promise?

(Reply to the Rev. Hoeksema)

The promises of God have been the occasion for much strife, already for ages. An important cause of this must be sought in the “confusion of tongues” which time and again is brought to light in such struggles. The results of Babel are, indeed, conquered “in principle” by the Spirit of Pentecost, but are not yet definitely eradicated by any means. Only in the way of intense listening to the Word of that Spirit are we able to surmount those difficulties by His grace.

This must be, first of all, brought up for discussion here, since we are going to speak concerning the second question of the Rev. Hoeksema. He posits three possibilities: a. That the promise “is for all that are baptized unconditionally”; b. That (the promise) “is for all that are baptized, but then conditionally”; and c. That (the promise) “is for the children of the promise”, according to the exegesis of Rom. 9 which is held by the Rev. Hoeksema and others.

It depends here upon the careful weighing of every word. Everyone who has followed the covenant struggle of recent years will grasp, of course, the approximate meaning of the several definitions of the Rev. Hoeksema. But exactly in this “statement of the problem” do we find, altogether too often, the greatest danger. We have experienced all the misery with an “Elucidation” (Toelichting) and “Pre-Advice” (prae-advies), which continually labored with unsound dilemmas (f.i. the well-known antithesis: general offer to all that hear or a special promise of salvation to the elect). The Church was often almost brought to ruin with such unsound dilemmas. It is therefore a boon of the Holy Ghost when we may surmount them in truth. For that reason we must ask one another: what do you understand when you say: that God’s promises are “for” all that are baptized? Yes, indeed, that question is the issue here! It is really no hairsplitting to speak about that. Because the controversy has originated exactly in this that they would give unto such words a significance of their own invention, detached from concrete common parlance, which is immediately intelligible to us in our daily life.

Now then, I believe that I clearly understand the Rev. Hoeksema when I render his idea as follows: when the promise is “for” someone, it means that he has a certain right to it—yea, even more, that he will absolutely obtain possession of the promised good, as surely as two times two are four, or (to use a sounder comparison) as surely as that the end of the world shall ultimately come.

In that line of thought, then, fits the conception that the promise is only “for” the elect, for the children of the promise (such as the Rev. Hoeksema typifies them). And on that standpoint the conclusion is speedily drawn, on which the Synodical theologians would try to hang us, namely, this conclusion: the promise is only “for” the elect, and, therefore(!), I may not in conscience say to the baptized and the communicant: “this is Christ Who allowed His body to be broken and Who shed His blood also for you”, but I must say, or, at least, harbor the mental reservation: I take it that it is so (the judgment of love), but I do not know whether you are elect indeed, and, therefore, at the most we can mutually take it that we and our children are heirs of the kingdom of God and of His covenant!

The discord in the discussion originates again and again exactly at this point. For whom is the promise? What is contained in that word “for”?

Now, I believe, that we will do well to establish at once that which we heartily agree on or which we may, at the least, expect to agree on. I have in mind the truth which, f.i., is expressed in Rom. 11:7: “the election hath obtained it”, not the others (compare I Pet. 2:8, Rev. 17:14, etc.). In other words: the complete fulfillment of salvation (heilsvervulling) of God’s promises falls to the lot of only that people who are chosen thereunto by God according to the good pleasure of His will.

But the important question at this juncture is this: is it sufficient to express the truth which we confessed above of the fulfillment of the promises, by means of that so seemingly simple little word ‘Tor”? Does Scripture speak in that same spirit, and with the same terminology? Whereby we ought to keep in mind that Scripture speaks a living, concrete language, out of which we can fix a soundly weighed judgment in one or more summarizing terms, only by accurate and painstaking comparison of the one text with the other.

I am reminded here of an observation by the Rev. Hoeksema himself, which our editor-in-chief pointed out in “De Reformatie” of Nov. 23, 1946. It struck the Rev. Hoeksema that the substitution-formula read: the children of the believers are sanctified in Christ, “so that they are participants of the promise and are placed under the requirement (eisch) of the covenant”; and he made the correct observation in that connection: it all depends how you further interpret those words! While Prof. Schilder added, that there is a marked difference between “sharing in the promise of the operation” and “sharing in the promised operation”. A like possibility of misunderstanding and uncertainty must be banned as much as possible from our oral and written expositions. And for that reason the question is in place, whether the word “for” in this connection settles the matter. The same must be said of the Rev. Hoeksema’s question, whether the promise “is” for all that are baptized, and then still further: “unconditionally” or “conditionally”. The inadequateness of the terms plays here an important part, since it pertains to this, namely, to give a sound rendition of the ideas of Scripture in our language.

For that reason I can concur to a great extent in what J. L. Struik Lzn wrote in “De Yrije Kerk” of April 25, 1946, and also later. He, too, observes, “that the difference of opinion relative the promise depends on the difference of view one has of the language of the Bible.” In order to clarify his meaning he gives the following example taken from life:

“At noon a father sits at table and promises his children who sit with him at dinner: ‘tonight you may stay up a few hours longer, and then we shall have a party’. Now at five o’clock one boy is very disobedient and father, coming home at six o’clock and hearing of this, sends him to bed for punishment. He misses the joy of the promised party. The promise of the father does not profit him, because it (i.e. the promise) was in him (i.e. the boy) not mixed with obedience. And if the boy rudely says: But you have promised that I might stay up’, then such a father says: Wes, but I did not promise it to such a disobedient boy. Oh no, you are no child’!”

The important question is, of course, this: Does the Word of God also speak thus?

Our next article will have to enter into that question.

L. Doekes

The words and phrases which the Rev. Doekes placed in spaced type, I have placed in italics.