This essay, which I am about to write, will be a positive exposition of Romans 10:9 against the background of the “testimony” that “Classis West” purported to give Classis East in regards to the Statements of Rev. De Wolf and Classis East’s condemnation of the same.
This passage from the Word of God reads as follows: “that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and shalt believe in thy heart that God raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” Romans 10:9.
Our chief concern in this essay is not what “Classis West” desired, to establish in citing this text, but rather what Paul establishes here with his readers. At bottom we are interested in sound exegesis and not in refuting an erroneous or confused usage of the text. Nevertheless, even in our positive and constructive study of the text we shall reject all heresies repugnant thereto.
In this passage in Romans 10:9, Paul tells us what thecontent is of the “word of faith” which is preached by the apostles and teachers of Jesus Christ. Yes, here we have that which is preached in Christ’s Name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth. Literally we read in verse 8, “but what saith it? The word is nigh thee in thy mouth and in thy heart, that is, the word of faith, which we preach.” And this Word in a nutshell is, when viewed in contrast to the law of Moses, that if we confess that Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts that God has raised Him from the dead, we shall be saved. That is the content of the “word of faith” briefly expressed in opposition to the righteousness by law. This latter saith: that the man that doeth the law shall live thereby.
What a blessed and beautiful content is preached when the “word of faith” is brought to the New Testament church!
As a preacher of these riches of the grace in Christ, Paul has a great desire of heart that Israel, his kinsmen, according to the flesh, might believe and be saved. Ah, these men were really very zealouslyreligious. They were trying to bring about their own salvation. They tried to put a foundation under their own feet, a foundation of righteousness. And in so doing they clearly showed that they refused to submit to the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. They did not heed the report of the gospel, the glad tidings of good things. They thereby gave evidence that they had never understood the Holy Scriptures and the power of God. The great promise of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit had never been understood by them. God’s covenant dealings, a dispensation of rich and boundless mercy they had never been able to see. The whole Bible was closed to them even though they read it every Sabbath, since they did not see that the Messiah, the Christ was the purpose, the Telos of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth. In Isaiah’s day they are the Israel of which this great prophet said: “All day long did I spread out my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.”
Hence, there is the same desire and pain in the heart of Paul as there had been in the heart of the prophet Isaiah. It is the lot of prophets to thus suffer; these must taste the pain of having a message beside which there is none other and not being believed!
The promise of the gospel is that “everyone that believeth shall be saved. And this must be preachedpromiscuously to all to whom God sends the gospel in His good pleasure. The Greek text has: touto estin to reema tees pisteoos o keerussomen. Translated this is: that is the word of faith which we preach. It is of importance that we notice that Paul does not write here: that is that Word of faith which is promised to all if they believe. Paul says: preached to all. “Preaching” is a term of Scripture and the Confessions whichcannot be equated, identified with “to promise.” Paul does not say “the word of faith which is promised, that if thou shalt believe, etc.” Nay, preaching and promiseare not identical.
Preaching and promise are not identical here in the text (in Roman 10:8, 9. Such was evidently the implied intention of Rev. B. Kok on the floor of Classis East, October 7, 1953, when he said that if he could not say: “God promises every one of you, that, if you believe, you will be saved” then he saw that the very heart of the gospel had been denied. And he opened a copy of the Bible and read Romans 10:9 to support his contention. I remember very distinctly, that, before a church full of people, I challenged Rev. B. Kok to prove exegetically that Romans 10:8, 9 says: God promises every one of you, that, if you believe etc., when it says: The word of faith which we preach that if thou confess with thy mouth that Jesus is Lord . . . . thou shalt be saved. Did Rev. Kok meet that challenge? No, he remained seated. Nor has he, up till this day, taken the pains to show on good exegetical grounds that “the word of faith, which wepreach” can be rendered “the word of faith which ispromised!”
Our point is not to cast aspersions on Rev. B. Kok. The Lord will judge His people and He will judge a righteous judgment. We are interested in keeping confusion and every evil work out of the church and from the pulpit; also the evil work of confusion in sound exegesis and the proper dogmatic and Confessional conclusions!
It is of importance that we be preachers who rightly divide the Word of truth and be workmen that need not be ashamed. And when we are to give “testimony” to brethren, to a whole Classis that has struggled to maintain clarity and orthodoxy in our terminology, then we must do more than cast a few hasty insinuations in the face of a Classis, and also do more than quote a few texts without showing with sound exegesis the relevancy of the passages quoted to the issue at hand. There is always a great distance yet between the “testimony of Jesus Christ” and flinging a few nasty accusations over the shoulder after having walked out of the door and after having made decent and brotherly discussion impossible!
When a “Classis” gives “testimony” one expects “testimony” in which one hears: thus saith the Lord, and not simply a little “piece of one’s mind.” Before the former I tremble—no matter who speaks it. And would that God’s people all were prophets. When Rev. A. Petter writes a good and sound article in Concordia, I weep that he is not wholly consistent in the matter of “conditions,” but I rejoice greatly that he defends the position that God was not reconciled to us, but that God reconciled us to Himself. Then I hear the prophetic word. And I rejoice. But I cannot rejoice in a “testimony” which is so vague and pointless that it lacks testimony! I have no respect for a “testimony” that begins with a false assumption and, therefore, ends with a false conclusion, to wit, which identifies “preaching” and “promise!” This is neither Scriptural nor is it Confessional.
“Classis West” also refers to Canons II, as a Confessional reference for the Statement(s?) of Rev. De Wolf. This Canon reads as follows: “Moreover the promise of the gospel is, that whosoever believeth in Christ, crucified? shall not perish but have everlasting life. This promise, together with the command to repent and believe, ought to be declared andpublished to all nations and to all persons promiscuously and without distinction, to, whom God out of His good pleasure sends the gospel.”
It is rather difficult to ascertain just what “Classis West” wished to prove with this article of the Canons.
Did they wish to demonstrate that the Statement of Rev. De Wolf, called the first Statement was not a “complete and concise statement of doctrine?” Speaking of these Statements of De Wolf they write “. . . . . Though we freely admit that they are not a complete and concise statement of doctrine.”
Not so easy to understand is it? And this is meant to be a “testimony” to us, is it not?
These statements are not a complete statement of doctrine. Does this mean, in the mind of the Classis and that of their Committee of preadvice, that not all the dogmas of the church are contained in these statements? One can hardly believe that a “Classis” would seriously write down such a truism! A compendium of doctrine they are evidently not. Well, they are “incomplete” statements of doctrine. Of what doctrine? Of that doctrine which they “meant” to express? Rev. M. Gritters, if asked: what does Classis here have in mind, would quite likely say: “I cannot interpret for Classis. I have not that power, I have not that right.” Since the same “Classis” will never again meet there is no one that can ever tell me just what “Classis” meant. That throws me back upon simple deduction of the most obvious natural sense. Rev. De Wolf’s Statement in re the promise to all was “not a complete statement of doctrine.” More should have been said. I don’t know whether “Classis West” here quotes in context, interpolates. But at least that is their “testimony,” or at least it is a willing concession.
Now I ask: Does “Classis West” desire that Classis East shall understand from Canons II, 5 that Statement I De De Wolf is an incomplete statement of doctrine? Who shall help me? Who shall tell me what pertinent elements of doctrine are not stated and which should be incorporated to make it complete? Maybe Rev. De Wolf will do this himself sometime. He is, as I understand it, going to be a guardian of the truth?
In their “testimony” the aforementioned “Classis” also told Classis East that these Statements were “not concise.” In other words: What these statements express could be expressed still more briefly. For note well that “concise” means: expressing much in brief form. Hence, these statements could express more in brief form. Here I have pondered the question whether the authors did not have in mind the term “precise” when they wrote “concise.” But who shall say? The testimony is not expressed in very clear and preciselanguage. And that makes it rather valueless, me thinks! But granted that the “Classis” meant that the statements are not complete and “precise” statements of doctrine then I ask: wherein are they not strictly accurate? Wherein have they failed (these “statements,” you must know) to be observant of rule, of punctilious, absolute conformity to the Reformed Standards? Or did “Classis West” after all mean “concise?” Are they then too verbose?
When I look at the Statement I of De Wolf and compare it with Canons II, then I am certain that according to the analogy of faith it must be asserted that the “Statement” is not simply not “precise,” accurate, but is repugnant to Canons II, 5. That “Classis West” will not say. Nor can they say that this “Statement” is clearly taught in Canons II, 5. So they are content (?) with the assertion that there are “numerous like statements in Scripture and the confessions.” This assertion itself is an unproven contention.
I ask anyone to show the following:
1. That in Romans 10:9 and John 3:14-16 as well as in Canons II, 5 we have explicitly taught what is expressed in Statement I of Rev. De Wolf. Come, Rev. De Wolf, just begin with this matter lest this present generation be deprived of seeing one more dogmatical fiasco; yea, better still, that you may see that your Statements are repugnant to the standards.
2. That it is possible and correct and “precise” to identify “preaching” and “promise” both according to Scripture and Confessions.
3. That it is not the calling of a preacher to so preach the word that it is precise and accurate, but that he may preach so that his statements are “like” the confessions, rather than what is “clearly taught” in the confessions.
In the meantime I do not find my conscience bound by this “testimony” of “Classis West” but I shall adhere to the testimony of the Scriptures and the Confessions.