Synod of Dordt
Discussing the Rejection of Errors of the second head of the Canons of Dordt, we now quote Article V:
Who teach: That all men have been accepted unto the state of reconciliation and unto the grace of the covenant, so that no one is worthy of condemnation on account of original sin, and that no one shall be condemned because of it, but that all are free from the guilt of original sin. For this opinion is repugnant to Scripture which teaches that we are by nature children of wrath.
In this article, according to the fathers of Dordt, the Arminians teach three things. In the first place, they teach that all men have been accepted unto the state of reconciliation. Secondly, they teach that all men have been accepted unto the grace of the covenant. And, in the third place, they also teach that no one is worthy of condemnation on account of original sin, and that no one shall be condemned because of it, but that all are free from the guilt of original sin. We do well to understand this Arminian view of the atonement of our Lord Jesus Christ. We do well to be fully informed about the teaching of the Remonstrants. We do well to be acquainted thoroughly with our confessions, and this also includes those parts of our Canons in which the fathers of Dordt set forth the errors of these Remonstrants. These confessions have been composed for our instruction. They have been sealed with the blood of the saints. We must not ignore them and be ignorant of their content. In these articles the seriousness of the Arminian error is held vividly before us. We must bear in mind that these heresies of the Arminians follow inexorably from their teachings.
We must bear in mind that Arminianism and the Reformed faith have nothing in common. They are as far apart as the two poles. Sometimes one hears the remark, when we set forth and condemn the Arminian error, that we are speaking of the worst Arminians. that there are many Arminians who are not that bad and that these Arminians subscribe to the fundamental truths of the Word of God. This last assertion is not true. Arminianism is that system of doctrine which departs from, the Reformed faith, is wholly opposed to it, has nothing in common with it. If we analyze Arminianism, we shall discover that it violates every fundamental truth of Holy Writ. I realize that the Arminians use Reformed terms, would leave the impression that they believe the Scriptures. This is not unusual. Do not the Scriptures teach that the wolves walk about in sheep’s clothing? Of this fifth article of the Rejection of Errors of Head II of our Canons is a clear example. Do we not read in this article of the state of reconciliation and of the grace of the covenant? Also the Arminians speak of the love of God, of the death and atonement of Christ upon the cross of Calvary, of sin and of the preaching of the gospel. Do not the modernists of our day speak of the birth and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ? And so we could go on. This means nothing. When heretics use these Scriptural terms they certainly do not use them in the Scriptural sense of the word. And this means that we must always be doubly on our guard.
There is, first of all, according to this fifth article, the Scriptural concept of reconciliation. Concerning this concept, we would remark, in the first place, that God is always the Subject of reconciliation and never its Object, and that the elect sinner is always its object and never its subject. God always does the reconciling and is never reconciled, the sinner is always reconciled and never does the reconciling. As we read it in II Cor. 5:19: “To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.” The Scriptures never express it any other way. It is true that we read at the close of verse 20: “Be ye reconciled to God.” But this expression must never be interpreted to mean: “Become ye reconciled to God.” This is evident from the fact that we read in verse 19 that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself. So, the Lord does the reconciling and the elect sinner is always its object.
Secondly, the Scriptural concept of reconciliation contains three elements. First, this concept presupposes a relationship. This is naturally true. Strangers are not reconciled. Only people who stand in a certain relation to each other are reconciled, such as husbands and wives, parents and children, employers and employees, etc. This is also Scripturally true. Reconciliation presupposes a relationship between God and His people, in which God has known them in everlasting love, has willed them to be His people, His covenant friends, with whom He has willed to dwell in everlasting communion and fellowship.
Secondly, this concept of reconciliation presupposes that this relationship has been disturbed. Mind you, it has not been broken. This, too, is naturally true. A husband and his wife who have been divorced are not reconciled. Their divorce ends their relationship. Reconciliation is attempted as long as the bond has not yet been severed, broken; This is also spiritually true. O, yes, this relationship has been broken as far as we are concerned. We have certainly severed connections; we have turned our backs upon the Lord. And we have placed ourselves in a position in which this relationship, as far as we are concerned, can never be restored. We cannot pay our guilt of sin, satisfy the unchangeable righteousness of God, and this satisfaction of God’s justice is absolutely necessary if we are to return into the favor and fellowship of the Lord. And neither are we able to break these bands of sin and darkness and call ourselves out of death and darkness into the life and light of God’s covenant. But, although we can and did turn our backs upon the Lord, the Lord has not broken connections with us, has not turned His back upon us. This is the wonder of Divine love. The sheep may turn their backs upon their shepherd, but they can never compel the shepherd to turn his back upon them. Do we not read in the Scriptures that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son? However, this relationship has been disturbed. Something has happened that makes it impossible for God to exercise covenant fellowship with us. We have sinned and God is holy and righteous and good. Sin, therefore, must be paid, His justice must be satisfied. And until our sin is paid, His justice satisfied, and we are holy even as He is holy, God cannot exercise covenant communion and fellowship with us.
Thirdly, the concept of reconciliation implies that this relationship has now been restored. Notice again: we are reconciled, not God. The Scriptures never teach that the Lord is reconciled. The love of God toward His people has never been broken. And we must also note that God does the reconciling, never we. We have here the death of the Son of God, of God Himself, in our flesh and blood. God was in Christ reconciling the world, His world, unto Himself. So, this relationship has now been restored. The idea of reconciliation is a legal concept, concerns our judicial relation to the law of God. The basis has now been laid, according to the righteousness of the Lord, whereby God can again enter into fellowship with us. This basis has been laid in the blood of Calvary. All this is implied in the Scriptural concept of reconciliation. Of this, this fifth article of the’ Rejection of Errors in Head II of our Canons speaks.
Now the Arminians teach, according to our fathers in this fifth article, that all men have been accepted unto the state of reconciliation. They were, of course, compelled to teach this. Of course, we understand that when they speak of all men being accepted unto the state of reconciliation, they mean something which is quite different from the Reformed conception. It is, we understand, very true that all men have been restored into the state of reconciliation. The Scriptures surely teach this. Do we not read in the Word of God that God reconciled the world unto Himself, and that the crucified and glorified Lord draws all men unto Himself. When the Arminians, however, teach that all men have been accepted unto the state of reconciliation, they mean all men in the sense of every man, head for head. And we will in due time call attention to what they mean when they speak of all men having been accepted unto the state of reconciliation. But the Arminians were surely compelled to teach this. Do not the Scriptures speak of the blood of Christ as the blood of atonement and of reconciliation? Do we not read in II Cor. 5:19 that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself? And does not the apostle, in I John 2:2, declare that Jesus is the propitiation for our sins? It is, therefore, evident from the Word of God that the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ is the blood of reconciliation. But the Arminians also teach that Christ died for the whole world, for all men, every man, head for head. So, they were compelled to teach that all men have been accepted unto the state of reconciliation.
Secondly, the Arminians teach that all men have been accepted, unto the grace of the covenant. Again, this is true enough in itself, provided that we understand all men to mean all men as out of every tribe, nation, land and tongue. But, of course, we understand that the Remonstrants mean all men in the sense of every man, individually. And they were also compelled to teach this. This follows from their teaching that the Lord Jesus Christ died for the whole human race and every individual of that human race. If all men have been accepted into the state of reconciliation, then it follows inexorably that all men have also been accepted into the grace of the covenant. This means, according to the Remonstrants, that all men have been accepted into the love and friendship of the Lord, that the Lord now enters into friendship relations with all men and every man. Of course, the Arminian places his own construction upon these words. We understand, of course, that if it were really true that all men have been accepted into the grace of the covenant, into the love and friendship of the living God, according to the Scriptural meaning of the love and friendship of the Lord, then all men would surely be saved. But we know that the Arminian explains everything as dependent upon the free will of the sinner. Besides, what a striking similarity there is between this Arminian conception and the conception which is so prevalent today! But, the Lord willing, we will have to wait until our following article before we call attention to this. And we will also wait until our following article before calling attention to what we also read in this article, namely, that no one is worthy of condemnation because of it, but that all are free from the guilt of original sin. This view of the Arminians is also completely in harmony with their conception that all men have been accepted into the state of reconciliation and into the grace of the covenant. And this heresy of the Remonstrants is also very prevalent in our present day. But to this we will call attention, the Lord willing, in our following article.