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Discussion on the Canons (2)

Questions:

  1. Which expressions in article 6 reveal the infralapsarian standpoint?
  2. In what way do men wrest the doctrine of predestination to their own destruction? (Art. 6.)
  3. What is the unspeakable consolation of the doctrine of election to holy and pious souls? Who are these?
  4. How does the infra-view appear in article 7?
  5. Which other terms besides “purpose” can you find in Scripture for the counsel of God?
  6. Enumerate the different elements in the de­finition article 7 (first paragraph) gives of election?
  7. Unto what blessings of grace did God elect His people? (Art. 7.)

 

Answers:

  1. The infralapsarian standpoint is evident from the following expressions: “while he leaves the non-elect in his just judgment to their own wickedness and obduracy”; and, “the righteous discrimination between men equally involved in ruin”. In the first expression the decree of repro­bation is referred to as the leaving of the non­-elect in their sin. This presupposes sin. God. therefore, saw in His decree the reprobate as fall­en. And the second expression speaks of God as discriminating between men equally involved in ruin. This presupposes the ruin of sin before the discrimination is made and is, therefore, infra­lapsarian.
  2. The expression in article 6 is evidently taken from II Pet. 3:16: “As also in all his (Paul’s) epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood,which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.” They do this: a.)By answering against God: “Why doth He yet find fault, for who hath resisted His will?” Rom. 9:19. For this evinces the spirit of rebellion. b.)By denying the truth and teaching free­ will. Thus, they deny the sovereignty of God. c.)By making the doctrine of predestination an excuse for a walk in sin. “Let us sin, that grace may abound!”

 

28. The unspeakable consolation of this doctrine to pious souls is that they are assured that noth­ing can separate them from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus their Lord. Rom. 8:37-39.

This consolation, however, is only for holy and pious souls. That is, for those believers that seal their faith and confession by a walk in sanctifica­tion and earnest endeavor to walk in all good works. Even believers have this consolation only according as they walk in holiness.

  1. Article 7 states, that election is the purpose of God whereby He hath chosen from the whole human race, which had fallen through their own fault into sin and destruction, a certain number of persons to redemption in Christ. This is evi­dently the infra standpoint. God chose from a fallen human race.

The same is true of the following expression: “This elect number, though by nature neither bet­ter nor more deserving than others, but with them equally involved in one common misery, God hath decreed to give to Christ”.

  1. Note the following expressions: “he hath chosen us”, Eph. 1:4; “having predestinated us”, Eph. 1:5; “the good pleasure of his will”, Eph.1:5; “the mystery of his will”, Eph. 1:9; “his good pleasure”, Eph. 1:9; “the counsel of his own will”, Eph. 1:11; “the purpose of God according to election”, Rom. 9:11; “foreknowledge”, Rom. 8:29, 11:2, I Pet. 1:2; “the election of grace”, Rom. 11:5.
  2. The following elements may be distinguished in the definition of election in article 7 a.)It is the unchangeable purpose of God. b.)It is eternal: before the foundation of the world c.)The motive is “mere grace”. d.)It is “sovereign good pleasure”. e.)It is election from the whole human race f.)It is election unto ‘redemption in Christ. g.)Christ is appointed Mediator and Head of the elect.
  3. They are elected unto the following blessings . a.)To be given to Christ. b.)To be saved (redeemed) by Him. c.)To be called and drawn into His com­munion effectually. d.)Unto faith. e.)Unto justification. f.)Unto sanctification. g.)Unto preservation. h.)Unto glorification.

 

Questions:

  1. What does article 8 emphasize? Why?
  2. What does article 9 teach; and against whom is it directed?
  3. What did the Arminians teach instead of “personal” election? (Art. 10.)
  4. What is said of the doctrine of election in article 11?
  5. How may we come to a personal assurance of our own election? (Art. 12.)
  6. Which fruits especially may assure us, that God has chosen us to salvation? (Art. 12.)
  7. What should be the effect of the doctrine of election upon them that believe? (Art. 13.) What is often alleged to be the effect?

 

Answers:

  1. Article 8 emphasizes the oneness and un­changeableness of the degree of election because the Arminians spoke of various decrees of elec­tion, definite and indefinite, of election unto sal­vation and election unto faith and unto final glory, all because they wished to place the ground and reason of election in man. See Head of Doctrine I, section B, article 2.
  2. Article 9 teaches that election is the ultimate fountain and ground of our salvation, and that, therefore, itself does not find its ground in any­thing of man which God foresaw. The latter is the teaching of the Arminians.
  3. The Arminians taught that God had chosen certain qualities or actions of man as conditions with which man must comply in order to be saved. Thus, God might have chosen: the law and the righteousness of the law; instead He chose faith and perseverance. The Reformed fathers taught that election concerns persons, known unto God by name. See I, B, 3-5.
  4. That the election of God is unchangeable. Again, in opposition to the Arminians. See I, B, 6.
  5. The Arminians naturally denied that one could ever be certain of his election unto glory, seeing it depends to the very last upon man’s own will Whether he is to be saved or no. But the Reformed fathers, who taught that faith and sanctification are not the ground, but the fruit of election, taught that the Christians do possess that certainty by observing in themselves these fruits, such as faith in Christ, filial fear, godly sorrow, hunger and thirst after righteousness. See II, B. 7,
  6. We may notice that the article refers espec­ially to inward, spiritual fruits in distinction from outward good works. Among these hunger and thirst after righteousness and godly sorrow for sin are very important, seeing that the elect Christian remains sinful and imperfect till the day of his death. Not perfection is a fruit that may assure us, but rather the inward spiritual attitude over against our sin and the longing for perfection.
  7. Daily humiliation before God and an earnest desire to walk in all good works, to keep them­selves unspotted from the world, is the fruit of the faith of election and personal certainty of it. For, it causes us to acknowledge our own insigni­ficance and the greatness of God’s mercy. Usually it is alleged that this doctrine causes carelessness and profanity. But the Canons correctly empha­size that this is never the case with them that believe their personal election, but only with those that refuse to walk in the way of God’s precepts.

 

Questions:

  1. Ought the doctrine of election to be preached? If so, how should it be done? (Art. 14.)
  2. What is the relation between the doctrine of election and other doctrines?
  3. Of what doctrine does article 15 speak? What is its standpoint?
  4. Does the doctrine of reprobation make God the author of sin? (Art. 15.)
  5. What is the purpose of reprobation? (Art. 15.)
  6. Who need not be alarmed at the truth of reprobation? Who should? (Art. 16.)

 

Answers:

  1. Most certainly this doctrine must be preached and taught in the Church. The Canons remark that the prophets declared this doctrine, Christ preached it and so did the apostles. It does not belong to the secret, but to the revealed things. It must, however, be done spiritually, not carnally. A mere cold discussion of the doctrine of election is not preaching. Besides, it must be done at the proper time and place, that is, not as a doctrine separated from the rest, so that once a year a sermon is preached on the doctrine of predestina­tion in order never to mention it again, but in its proper connection with the whole of the truth. Moreover, the Canons mention that we must not investigate the secret and deep ways of God, that is, although the doctrine of election is revealed, the details are often hid. We cannot follow the Lord in His ways, which are higher than our ways. The secret things belong to the Lord our God.
  2. The relation between the doctrine of election and other doctrines is such that it is of central significance. By the acceptance or denial of the doctrine of election the whole system of the truth is affected; think of the doctrine of total deprav­ity, of atonement, of regeneration, faith, conver­sion and the perseverance of the saints. Hence, our fathers called this doctrine the “heart of the Church”.
  3. Article 15 speaks of the doctrine of reproba­tion. Its standpoint is infra, as is evident from the expressions: “passed by in the eternal de­cree” ; and: “hath decreed to leave in the common misery”. Mark, however, that even so the ex­pression: “passed by in the decree” does not mean, that the reprobates have no place in the decree, but that God sovereignly decreed not to save them.
  4. The doctrine of reprobation does not make God the author of sin, as we noticed before. Nevertheless, it does not merely present Him as the righteous judge and avenger of sin, but also as absolute sovereign in His good pleasure.
  5. The purpose of reprobation is, according to article 15, the revelation of the justice of God. No doubt this is true. There is, however, accord­ing to the general teaching of Scripture, another purpose, which must not be forgotten. It must serve the realization of election, as the chaff serves the wheat.
  6. Briefly, those that do not yet clearly discern in themselves the work of God’s grace, but faith­fully walk in the covenant way, should not be alarmed at this doctrine. They have no reason to think that they belong to the reprobate. Nor ought the imperfect children of God who are troubled by their sin. But they that walk in sin and lead a carnal life may justly be terrified by this doctrine as long as they walk in such sin.