PART Two â€• EXPOSITION OF THE CANONS
FIFTH HEAD OF DOCTRINE
OF THE PERSEVERANCE OF THE SAINTS
REJECTION OF ERRORS
Article 3 (concluded)
In this connection we must still give our attention to the Scripture passages cited. The first is Romans 5:8-9, quoted in part in the article: “That while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.” Concerning this proof-text we may note the following: 1) It undoubtedly was chosen in connection with the charge that the Arminian conception renders ineffectual the grace of justification. This is plain from the reference to justification in the text itself: “being now justified by his blood.” 2) Also this text does not speak of preservation or perseverance as such, but it implies preservation and perseverance. For the text looks to the end, to the day of judgment and of the execution of God’s righteous judgment. This is the plain implication of the statement that “we shall be saved from wrath through him.” Our previous contention, and the contention of this third article of the rejection, therefore, that you can never separate between the wonder of preservation and the other wonders of grace in the “order of salvation” is clearly supported by this Scripture passage. 3) And thus we must notice that the text proceeds from the fact of our justification in the blood of Christ to what must with absolute certainty be the consequence of that justification, namely, that we shall be saved from wrath through Christ. And, in fact, the text even emphasizes that this is “much more then.” That is, whoever is justified by Christ’s blood is still more certainly saved from the wrath of God through, Christ. The Arminian conception that one can be covered by the blood of Christ and still finally become subject to the wrath of God is absolutely false. Either one is justified by the blood of Christ and then he can never, under the righteous judgment of God be the object of God’s wrath, since God, Who is righteous, cannot punish the righteous. Or, if one is the object of the wrath of God, he is not righteous before God because he has not been justified by the blood of Christ. Justification cannot be rendered ineffectual. 4) And finally, it must be noted that the presentation of the text is absolutely unconditional. Christ died for us. Because Christ died for us, we are justified by His blood. And because we are justified, we shall certainly be saved from wrath through Him. And there is no condition attached. What, in fact, is the source of it all? That is expressed in the portion of the text that is not quoted here: “But God commendeth his love toward us . . .” Hence, it is altogether of God, not of us.
The second passage cited by the fathers in this connection is I John 3:9: “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” Concerning this text we may note: 1) That it was undoubtedly chosen because of its reference to regeneration and in connection with the fathers’ charge that the Arminians by their denial of perseverance render ineffectual the grace of regeneration. 2) Again, this passage brings out the connection between preservation and regeneration. If you deny the preservation of the saints, you must deny the efficacy of regeneration. For preservation simply means, in part, that the new life; the life of regeneration, is preserved in the saints even unto the end. 3) And the text plainly teaches that “once regenerated is always regenerated.” For he that is born of God “cannot sin.” In other words, the life of regeneration cannot be changed about into the life of unregeneration. And why not? Because “his seed remaineth in him.” 4) And once more, this is absolutely unconditional. It is all of God, not at all of man.
The third passage quoted is John 10:28-29: “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.” Concerning this text we may note: 1) That It speaks directly of preservation and of our continued keeping by Christ. 2) That it speaks of this wonder of grace not from the viewpoint of its being perseverance on our part, but from the viewpoint of its being preservation on the part of God in Christ. We are in the hand of Christ. Christ holds us. And no one is able to pluck us out of Christ’s hand. 3) That the text plainly teaches that this preservation by God in Christ is absolutely sure: “they shall never perish.” 4) That the reason for this certainty is based upon the fact that “My Father . . . is greater than all,” and upon the fact that this Father, the Triune God, Who is “greater than all”â€•and therefore, greater than any enemy or opposing power that may seek to destroy the sheepâ€•has committed these sheep into the hand of Christ. 5) That the beauty of this passage lies especially in the fact that it so clearly connects our preservation with our eternal election. At the same time we may note that there is absolutely no conditional element mentioned in either the text or the context. The Arminian cannot possibly say here that being Christ’s sheep is dependent on your believing. For the context teaches the very opposite. Christ says to the unbelieving Jews: “Ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you.” vs. 26. Hence, the Arminian has no right to quote a passage like the above, and he has no claim to the comfort and assurance of words such as these. His doctrine is a corrupt and humanistic doctrine. He cannot derive it from the Scriptures. He can only try to impose it upon the Scriptures, and then only at the price of wresting and twisting the infallible Word of God.
Article 4. Who teach: That true believers and regenerate can sin the sin unto death or against the Holy Spirit. Since the same Apostle John, after having spoken in the fifth chapter of his first epistle, vss. 10 and 17, of those who sin unto death and having forbidden to pray for them, immediately adds to this in vs. 18: “We know that whosoever is begotten of God sinneth not (meaning a sin of that character), but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and the evil one toucheth him not,”
The above translation can be allowed to stand without change. As far as the error that is rejected in this article is concerned we must understand, first of all, that a real Arminian must indeed be a hypocrite in order even to bring the argument that a true believer and regenerate man can sin the sin against the Holy Spirit. In the first place, the Arminian does not believe in regeneration. He speaks of regeneration and the regenerate, but he does not teach the truth of regeneration. The Arminian limits the work of God in the matter of salvation to a kind of divine help. And the Scriptural doctrine of regeneration maintains that regeneration is “a new creation, a resurrection from the dead, a making alive, which God work in us without us.” Canons III, IV, 12. And of course, if the Arminian first empties the concept “regeneration” of its true content in order to pour into that concept his own Arminian content, denying the very meaning of the term, he can very easily teach also that these regenerate-in-the-Arminian-sense can sin the sin unto death. Actually, however, one cannot really discuss the matter concerned in this article with the genuine Arminian, since he and we would be talking about two different things when we say “regenerate.” In the second place, the Arminian cannot truly speak about the sin against the Holy Ghost. For the Arminians are agreed with the Socinians, who deny the personal existence of the Holy Ghost and teach that the Spirit is merely a power or influence of the Son. Hence, here again the Arminian and the Reformed man would be speaking of two entirely different matters when they spoke of this sin against the Holy Ghost.
Bearing in mind these Arminian inconsistencies, however, we may take note of the error that is rejected here. That Scripture speaks of a sin unto death and a sin against the Holy Ghost is well-known. The apostle John is not alone in the mention of this sin. He speaks of it as a sin unto death in I John 5. The Lord Jesus Himself speaks of the sin against the Holy Spirit, Mark 3:28-29: “Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme. But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation.” However, the Arminian teaches that it is possible for the believers and regenerate to commit this sin. In this connection we may notice, in the first place, that to a Reformed man this is a contradiction in terms. How can a true believer commit a sin unto death? Either he is no true believer or he does not and cannot commit the sin unto death. Both are not possible. We may indeed grant that an apparent believer, one who is outwardly a believer, a member of the church as it exists visibly on earth, one who is of the covenant, can commit this sin. In fact, we may safely say that it is only in the sphere of the covenant and of the church that this sin can be committed. But for a true believer, that is, one who is elect, to commit this sin is impossible. This sin is possible only for an Esau, a reprobate. Nor, in the second place, does Scripture anywhere state that it is the regenerate who do and can commit this sin. Jesus makes mention of this sin in connection with the charge of the wicked scribes, who accused Him of casting out devils by the prince of the devils. The apostle John; as this article notes, clearly makes a distinction between those who commit this sin and those who are born of God. The passage to which the Arminians often appeal in this connection is that inHebrews 6:4-6, which undoubtedly refers to this same sin unto death from a little different viewpoint: “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.” But without going into detail concerning the meaning of this passage, we may immediately notice: 1) That while it indeed describes those who fall away in very strong terms, and expresses that from a certain point of view they have come very close to the kingdom of heaven, it nevertheless nowhere literally states that those who fall away are regenerate. Even for the Arminian, therefore, this passage is a matter of interpretation, not of literal statement. 2) That the interpretation of the various descriptive terms of this passage in Hebrews must be made in the light of the rest of Scripture, especially such passages as I John 3:9 and I John 5:16-18 which forbids the interpretation that the men of Hebrews 6:4-6 are regenerate and true believers. Hence, the Arminian can make the statement and the claim which is condemned in this article by our fathers, but he cannot possibly make this claim with any semblance of a legitimate appeal to Holy Scripture.
And on the side of the Reformed truth is the fact which our fathers emphasize in this article, namely, that Scripture very clearly distinguishes between those who commit the sin unto death and those who are regenerate, teaching that “whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.” Moreover, we may note, in conclusion, that this “sinneth not” and “keepeth himself” proceeds from regeneration. Who is he that sinneth not and that keepeth himself? It is he that is born of God. And the plain implication is that it is exactly because of his regeneration that he does not commit this sin unto death, yea, cannot commit it.