Calling attention to Article VIII if the Second Head of our Canons, we concluded our last article with the observation that the Arminian, too, was compelled to concede the limited or particular character of the atonement of the cross of Calvary. One may make the same observation in connection with the preaching of the promise of the gospel. The statement that “God promises salvation to everyone of you, if you believe,” will be heartily endorsed by every Arminian or Remonstrant. The Arminian does not believe that God promises salvation to every hearer of the gospel. He believes that it is God’s desire to bestow His promise of salvation upon every hearer, but he does not believe that the Lord promises salvation to every sinner. The Lord surely does not promise salvation to every sinner. The Lord surely does not promise salvation to a sinner whether he repents or not. The Lord only promises to save a sinner if he repents. The same also applies to the cross of Calvary. The Arminian also realizes that all sinners are not saved. This means that the blood of the cross does not blot out the sins of every sinner. The sins are blotted out only of those sinners who accept the offer of salvation which comes to every hearer of the gospel. It is true that, according to the Remonstrant, Christ died for all men and every man head for head. This means that the death of the Son of God is universal only as far as God’s intention is concerned. But it is not universal as far as its efficacy is concerned. And the reason why it is not universal as far as its efficacy is concerned, why the blood of the cross does not actually blot out the sins of all sinners is simply because the saving efficacy of the sacrifice of Christ is dependent upon the will of the sinner. This is the position of the Arminian, and it is also the position of Prof. Harold Dekker of Calvin Seminary. And when the fathers of Dordt speak of the limited or particular character of the sacrifice of Christ, we must clearly understand that they are speaking of the divine intention of the living God. The cross of Calvary is particular as far as God’s will is concerned. God never intended that the cross of Golgotha should extend, as far as its saving efficacy is concerned, to all men. Christ never intended to die for all men. He came into this world to save His people, and His people alone.
It is also of importance to call attention to the fact that the fathers, in this eighth article of Head II of our Canons, speak of the “quickening and saving efficacy of the most precious death of His Son.” Of course, also the Remonstrant will speak of the quickening and saving efficacy of the death of the Son of God. But the difference between these fathers and the Remonstrants is obvious. The Remonstrant, speaking of the quickening and saving death of the Son of God, means, of course, that the death of the Son of God quickens and saves the sinner only when he believes, and is dependent upon his faith. The Arminian, we understand, does not believe that the death of God’s Son is quickening and saving in itself. He believes that Christ died for all men and for every man head for head, and that he, therefore, also died for those who perish. And this means that there is no efficacy and saving power in that death as such, because, if that death were saving in itself, none could possibly perish. But the fathers certainly do not mean this. When they speak of the efficacy and quickening of the death of God’s Son they surely mean that this death possesses this quickening and saving efficacy in itself. This also explains why the fathers here speak of the most precious death of the Son of God. As far as the Arminian is concerned, this can hardly be true. According to his interpretation of the cross, the death of the Son of God is not “most precious.” According to him, Christ really accomplished nothing upon the cross, But the fathers of Dordt speak of the saving efficacy and quickening of the most precious death of the Son of God. There is indeed power, power, power in that blood! That sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ has paid for all the sins of all the elect throughout all the ages. That sacrifice has merited everlasting life and glory. That sacrifice does not depend for its quickening and saving efficacy upon the will of the sinner. The blood of Calvary does not redeem and save the sinner because he believes. The sinner believes because Christ redeemed him upon the cross of Calvary. Our faith is never a condition for our salvation, but it ever remains the fruit of Christ’s wonderful work upon the cross of Golgotha. And this is the teaching of the Word of God, as in I Pet. 1:18-20: “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you.” And may our church continue to cling tenaciously also to this wonderful truth.
Notice, too, the distinctively particular character of this eighth article on Head II of our Canons. Permit me to quote this article once more, and the undersigned will underscore the pertinent parts:
For this was the sovereign counsel, and most gracious will and purpose of God the Father, that the quickening and saving efficacy of the most precious death of His Son should extend to all the elect, for bestowing upon them alone the gift of justifying faith, thereby to bring them infallibly to salvation: that is, it was the will of God, that Christ by the blood of the cross, whereby He confirmed the new covenant, should effectually redeem out of every people, tribe, nation, and language, all those, and those only, who were from eternity chosen to salvation, and given Him by the Father; that He should confer upon them faith, which together with all the other saving gifts of the Holy Spirit, He purchased for them by His death; should purge them from all sin, both original and actual, whether committed before or after believing; and having faithfully preserved them even to the end, should at last bring them free from every spot and blemish to the enjoyment of glory in His own presence forever.
What a beautifully concise and distinctive statement of faith, statement of the truth. This article certainly warms the heart of everyone who loves the truth of the Word of God. The fathers here speak of the sovereign counsel and most gracious will and purpose of God the Father. And they speak very intentionally of God’s sovereign counsel, and this means that this counsel of God is strictly unconditional, never dependent upon the will of any sinner. They also speak of God’s most gracious will and purpose, and this means that this election is free, wholly free, an unconditional gift of the living God. In this article they also speak of the elect: that the efficacy and quickening power of the sacrifice of Christ should extend to all the elect. Besides this, notice, please, the use of the word “alone” in this article, and also the word “only.” God willed to extend the benefits of the sacrifice of Christ to the elect alone, and to redeem, effectually, out of every people, tribe, etc., all those, and those only, who were from eternity chosen to salvation, and given Him by the Father. Indeed, the fathers here give expression to the truth in a very concise, distinctive manner, and this is surely the calling of the Church of God throughout the ages. May we, too, ever remain faithful in our distinctive preaching and teaching of the Word of God!
It is also well and proper to call attention to the fact that the fathers in this eighth article speak of the certain perseverance of the saints. Notice, please, that the fathers in this article do not confine and restrict the work of God in Christ to Christ’s sacrifice upon the cross. They include in this article the entire saving work of God even unto the end, concluding with the words: “Should at last bring them free from every spot and blemish to the enjoyment of glory in His own presence forever.” This, indeed, is very striking and instructive. We must bear in mind that the fathers, when speaking here in this eighth article of the perseverance of the saints, are discussing the atonement of Christ upon the cross of Calvary. The subject of perseverance is not treated by them until the Fifth Head of Doctrine. That this subject of the perseverance of the saints is mentioned here in connection with the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ is of very great importance. How different is the conception of the Remonstrant also in this respect. He, as far as the work of God is concerned, really ends at the cross. On the cross God did for us and for all mankind what He could. He so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. And now man’s role in the work of salvation begins. Upon the cross God realized for all men the possibility of salvation. And now that salvation is offered unto all who hear the preaching of the gospel. The sinner must accept this offer of salvation. He must will to be saved. And the Lord will save him provided that he desires and wills to be saved. The cross becomes a quickening and saving power only when the sinner wills to be saved through it. This, of course, is flatly in contradiction with the Word of God. In Ps. 138:8 the inspired psalmist declares: “The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me; Thy mercy, O Lord, endureth for ever: forsake not the works of Thine own hands.” And this is repeated by the apostle Paul in Phil. 1:6: “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 in Phil. 2:12-13 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.” And this truth is also emphatically set forth by the fathers in their eighth article. It is God Who confers upon His people faith and all the other saving gifts of the Holy Spirit which He purchased for them by His death, faithfully preserves them even to the end, until they at last are brought free from very spot and blemish to the enjoyment of glory in His own presence forever.
Mind you, in this eighth article all this is stated in connection with the one and perfect sacrifice upon the cross of Calvary. This means that this entire work of salvation, wholly divine, is guaranteed by that one perfect sacrifice. This is the thrust of this wonderful article. And this is rooted in the redeeming character of this sacrifice of the Son of God, Upon that cross Christ redeemed us, purchased us out of all the power of sin and of the devil, paid for all our sins, merited for us everlasting life and glory. Upon that cross all our salvation became a fact as rooted in the unchangeable righteousness of the Lord, Because of that sacrifice, also eternally, there is now no condemnation for them who are in Christ Jesus. Because of that most precious death of God’s Son, we can now say with the apostle Paul, as in Rom. 8:32: “He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” Indeed, in the cross of Christ we glory. May that, too, ever remain the confession of our churches.