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At the close of my last article on the current sub­ject I said that I would refer to the Baptism Form, which according to my conviction is one of the most beautiful and clearly Reformed documents which have come down from our fathers.

In treating the contents of this Baptism Form we must remember that I am still discussing the ques­tion of a conditional promise as maintained by Dr. Schilder in his brochure written against the Declara­tion of Principles. He wants to make the distinction between predictions and promises, and to maintain that while predictions are general, promises are for N.N., but at the same time are conditional.

At the same time I will in the present article also bear in mind the bold statement made by the Rev. Kok in the Sept. 1 issue of the Standard Bearer in which he wrote: “Bearing this in mind, there is no one who would dare to maintain that God ever pro­mises salvation unconditionally to anyone, no more than He did to Abraham, the father of believers.”

I, for one, not only dare to maintain this, but I maintain that unless God promises salvation uncondi­tionally to the elect, salvation becomes an absolute im­possibility.

It is this truth which I will try to show from our discussion of the Baptism Form.

Already from the very first paragraph of this Baptism Form it should be very evident that unless God promises salvation unconditionally, without any prerequisite which man must fulfill, it becomes an im­possibility that anyone should ever be saved. For there we read: “That we with our children are con­ceived and born in sin, and therefore are children of wrath, in so much that we cannot enter into the king­dom of God, except we are born again.” Now in the rebirth, or regeneration, the sinner is absolutely pas­sive and is absolutely incapable of meeting any con­ditions. God regenerates him unconditionally. To this we will refer later in our discussion.        

More important, however, for our purpose is the beautiful second part of our Baptism Form, which treats of the significance of baptism in general. There we read: “Holy baptism witnesseth and sealeth unto us the washing away of our sins through Jesus Christ. Therefore we are baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. For when we are baptized in the name of the Father, God the Fath­er witnesseth and sealeth unto us, that he doth make an eternal covenant of grace with us, and adopts us for his children and heirs, and therefore will provide us with every good thing, and avert all evil or turn it to our profit.” Notice, in the first place that it is God that establishes His covenant with us. This is the language of Scripture throughout. If it were a cove­nant between two parties, as in the case of a covenant between men, this would be absolutely impossible. When we read that God establishes His covenant with us, it certainly means that He alone fulfills all the ele­ments that are necessary to realize His everlasting covenant. In the establishment of this covenant there cannot possibly be any conditions which man must fulfill in order to enter into that covenant. It has al­ways been Reformed, and not specifically Protestant Reformed, to maintain that at least in the establish­ment of the covenant it is unilateral, one sided. Man can do absolutely nothing unto the establishment of God’s covenant with him. He cannot possibly per­form any conditions. And, as salvation and the cove­nant are inseparably connected, I maintain that when God establishes His covenant with us, He promises all the blessings of salvation, and that too uncondi­tionally, to the elect.

Secondly, let us note that the covenant which. God establishes with us is an eternal covenant. This means that the covenant of God has nothing to do with any contingency or conditions which man must fulfill, ei­ther to enter into the covenant or to remain in the covenant. The covenant is God’s covenant. It is es­tablished by Him. It is eternal, and eternally estab­lished with us, and can never be disannulled. Also this truth, that God’s covenant is an everlasting cove­nant, and that it can never be broken, that God will surely maintain it unto the end, is abundantly testi­fied by holy writ.

Thirdly, we read in this part of the Baptism Form that God the Father witnesseth and sealeth unto us that He adopt us for His children and heirs. Also this adoption unto children of God is an element of our salvation. When God promises, that is, when He witnesses and seals unto us that He will adopt us for His children and heirs, He promises salvation to us. Is this adoption, perhaps, a conditional adoption? Is it perhaps dependent upon anything that we must do in order to obtain it, or even in order to remain in the state of adoption? God forbid! For first of all, God has adopted us unto His children in His eternal coun­sel of election. For thus we read in Eph. 1:4-6: “Ac­cording as he hath chosen us in him before the foun­dation of the world, that we should be holy and with­out blame before him in love, Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.” And no one, not even Dr. Schilder or the Rev. Kok, would dare to maintain that this predestination unto the adoption of children was conditional, for that would be too plainly Arminian. Moreover, this adoption unto children was objectively realized in Christ, in His cross and resurrection, whereby He obtained the right for all the elect to be children of God and heirs of everlasting salvation. No one will dispute that the adoption unto children and heirs belongs to the salvation, nor will anyone ever dispute that God promises this salvation uncondition­ally. It is true that this objective adoption unto child­ren must be received by us by a true faith, but to this element we must call your attention in the third part of this paragraph of our Baptism Form.

Fourthly, notice that the Baptism Form in this section tells us that God the Father witnesses and seals unto us that He will provide us with every good thing and avert all evil, or turn it to our profit. This includes, mind you, everything that belongs to our way unto salvation in this present life. He will provide us with every good thing, that is, with everything that belongs to the means of our salvation: for only that is a good thing that is conducive to our salvation. Moreover, God will avert all evil, or turn the evil to our profit, so that all things must be conducive to our salvation. Is this promise, perhaps, conditional, so that it implies a prerequisite which we must fulfill in order to obtain it? Are prosperity and adversity, sickness and health, peace and war, life and death, and anything that may be our experience or may be­fall us in this life, conditioned by anything that man must do? Or can man do anything in order to turn all these things unto our profit and unto our salv­ation? Again I say: God forbid! In His eternal cove­nant of grace God promises all these things uncondi­tionally.

Finally, notice that according to the Baptism Form in baptism God witnesses and seals all these things unto us. That God the Father seals this unto us is the same as saying that He swears by an oath that He will surely fulfill the promises unto those to whom He promises these things. Will God ever fail to ful­fill His promise? Can our sin or our unbelief ever prevent Him from realizing His promise? You ans­wer with me: of course not. If that were the case, He would never fulfill it. For we on our part always vio­late the covenant of God and make ourselves unwor­thy of being called His children by our sin and ini­quity. Hence, that He seals the promises unto us means the same as saying that all these things are promised to us unconditionally. This is all the more evident from the fact that according to the Baptism Form He seals all these promises unto us, that is, unto the believing church and their spiritual seed. He seals these same promises to the little infants that are baptized, and that cannot even conceive of, still less fulfill, any conditions whatsoever. To this element we must refer later.

In the light of the foregoing, I would ask the Rev. Kok whether he would still maintain this statement: “Bearing this in mind, there is no one who would dare to maintain that God ever promises salvation uncon­ditionally to anyone, no more than He did to Abraham, the father of believers.” I kindly and in a brotherly spirit ask him to answer this question. I offer him all the space necessary to reply to this.

The Baptism Form continues that God the Son promises, that is, that He sealeth unto us, that is, that He swears with an oath “that he doth wash us in his blood from all our sins, incorporating us into the fel­lowship of his death and resurrection, so that we are freed from all our sins, and accounted righteous be­fore God.”

I ask again: Is this promise, perhaps, conditional?

What does it mean that Christ washes us in His blood from all our sins, and what does it mean that He incorporates us into the fellowship of His death and resurrection?

It certainly means, in the first place, that the Lord Jesus Christ died for us, and that through His death we were reconciled unto God. Objectively the atoning death of Christ is the washing away of the sins of all the elect. And certainly the atoning death of Christ is not, and cannot be conditioned by anything we can do. Unless we want to make the death of Christ ac­cording to God’s intention universal, and speak of general atonement, we may certainly say that God fulfilled His promise of the washing away of the sins of all the elect in the death of Christ and that He sealed that promise in His resurrection. The same is true concerning the incorporation into the death and resurrection of Christ. All the elect were legally and ideally incorporated into Christ when He died on the cross and rose again from the dead. For this is plainly taught in Eph. 2:4-6: “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace are ye saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”

The washing away of the sins of all the elect, and their incorporation into Jesus Christ, is an accom­plished fact, realized in time long before we were born, and rooted in God’s election, according to all our Con­fessions. And therefore also that part of our salva­tion cannot be conditional.

It is true that in time this washing away of our sins and this incorporation into Christ must be ap­plied unto us, and that we obtain it only by a true and living faith. But, in the first place, to this I will call attention when I am discussing the last part of this particular paragraph of the Baptism Form. And besides, let me emphasize that when we say that we receive all these blessings and the realization of these promises by faith, that faith, according to all our Confessions, is not a condition, but is only a means, a God-given means, implanted into our hearts and e­voked by the preaching of the gospel through the liv­ing and abiding Word of God, whereby we obtain part with Christ and all His benefits.

But again I ask: Will the Rev. Kok still maintain that God never promises salvation unconditionally to anyone?

And again I emphasize that the Baptism Form appropriates all these promises for “us and our child­ren”, and that these children certainly cannot fulfill any conditions whatsoever.

H.H.