Note: Nearly all of the commentary contained in these devotionals, as well as their organization, comes from Rev. McGeown’s book Grace and Assurance.
May 8 Read Romans 3:9–31 and Head 1, Article 1 of the Canons of Dordt
The point of this first article is simply to say that all men are guilty and undeserving of God’s grace. God would have been just if he had decided not to save anyone; he owes us nothing. Salvation is all of grace. The Arminians, who the Canons were written in response to, always wanted to start the discussion with reprobation in order to put the truth in the most negative light possible, but the Bible always starts with election, so that’s where the writers of the creed started as well. They explain that the Arminian claim that the truth regarding election “isn’t fair” is making man the judge, not God.
The truth of election is clearly taught in Romans 3. In verse 19, we read that we are all guilty before God. Verse 23 reinforces this by saying, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” What we deserve is death. What we have been given is everlasting life. What a wonder!
Sing or pray Psalter #206.
May 9 Read John 3:1–21 and Canons Head 1, Article 2
Article 1 talked about what God could have done, and now this article says what he did do. God loved his people so much that he sent his only begotten Son to die for them. It’s good to point out that the Canon’s treatment of salvation begins with God’s love, even though the Arminians claim the Reformed truth turns him into a God of hatred. The Son didn’t come to try and convince the Father to be merciful, as many believe, but the Father sent him because of his love for his people.
Arminians love to point to John 3:16 as supposed proof that God loves everyone and wants everyone to be saved. However, the word “world” needs to be interpreted within its context. In John 12:19, the Pharisees didn’t literally mean that the entire world was following Jesus, but that he was getting increasingly popular. Similarly, in John 3:16, Jesus was just telling Nicodemus that God’s people would now come from all nations. If Jesus had just said “elect,” Nicodemus wouldn’t have understood that he was including the Gentiles in that as well. He wouldn’t have understood that Jesus was including us.
Sing or pray Psalter #114.
May 10 Read Romans 10:5–21 and Canons Head 1, Article 3
This article talks about how God uses means to bring his people to saving faith. Arminians claim that unconditional election makes preaching unnecessary. What’s the purpose of preaching if God does it all anyway? The simple answer to this is that God uses means, or instruments, to accomplish his purpose. The call to repent and believe is an authoritative command that God issues through preachers, his human instruments. We read of this in Romans 10:14–15. God sends his preachers to bring this call to his people. The people hear and, by the grace of God, believe. Believing, they call on God and place their trust in him.
Of course, although God uses his ministers to bring the gospel to his people, there are some in the audience to whom the preaching is nothing but judgment. God does his good pleasure, and it pleases him not to save everyone to whom the gospel is preached. Do you receive the preaching in your heart? Then rejoice in the wonder of God’s mercy toward you!
Sing or pray Psalter #417.
May 11 Read Matthew 11:20–30 and Canons Head 1, Rejection of Errors 9
The Arminians so detest the truth of God’s sovereignty that they even reject it regarding the preaching of the gospel. According to them, God sends the gospel to a certain nation because he sees they are worthier than others. Sounds kind of like Hitler and the Arian race, doesn’t it? Sounds kind of like us in our wicked pride, doesn’t it? We can easily exalt ourselves above people of other nations who haven’t had Christianity brought to them to the extent that we have or above our neighbor who’s been brought up under false doctrine.
In Matthew 11:21, Jesus said that Sodom and Gomorrah would have repented if they had heard the gospel like Israel had, yet it hadn’t been preached to them. If the citizens of these cities would have believed when Israel did not, wouldn’t that make them more worthy than Israel? And if they were worthier, then why didn’t God save them? You see how swiftly the Arminian logic falls apart. The amazing truth, once again, is that God saved us solely because it pleased him to do so.
Sing or pray Psalter #210.
May 12 Read Ephesians 2:1–10 and Canons Head 1, Article 4
It’s important to see that the writers of the Canons are building the foundation on which to introduce predestination. Rev. McGeown says this is a good practice for us to follow as well, especially when witnessing to those who are trying to attack us, because we mustn’t allow them to frame the debate around reprobation.
Article 4 says that the preaching brings a two-fold response. Unbelievers remain under God’s wrath after they hear the preaching. It’s not that God loves everyone, but then those who reject the truth he presents to them are placed under his wrath. Instead, all men, including the elect, are born under God’s wrath. When God’s people hear the preaching and hold it for truth, they are brought out from under this wrath, but the wicked who reject it remain under it.
This is explained in the first part of Ephesians 2. In verse 3, we read that we “were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.” The following verses then explain how God has quickened us in Christ “and hath raised us up together” (v 9), bringing us out from under his wrath into “heavenly places.”
Sing or pray Psalter #53.
May 13 Read Philippians 1:18–30 and Canons Head 1, Article 5
Article 4 stated the two-fold response to the preaching, and Article 5 explains that response. Unbelievers are guilty for their unbelief. It is not God’s fault that they don’t believe. Arminians say that God could only fault man for not believing if he gave him the power to believe, but man’s accountability is based on the fact that he’s a creature, not on his ability. In addition, it’s man’s fault that he has, at the fall, become unable to believe. God did not force Adam and Eve to eat of the forbidden fruit; they wanted to do it.
The article also sets forth the truth positively, saying that faith is the gift of God. Ephesians 2:8 and Philippians 1:29 are just two examples from the many in scripture that make this clear. We were born dead in sin, guilty before God. Yet, out of his good pleasure, God saved us from that death by sending his own Son to die in our place. Now, that Son is preparing a place for us in our heavenly home, where we will go to be with him soon forever. Isn’t the truth amazing?
Sing or pray Psalter #46.
May 14 Read Acts 16:1–15 and Canons Head 1, Article 6
Article 6 states to whom it is God gives the gift of faith and why he gives it to them. Rev. McGeown explains some theological terminology that’s helpful for understanding this. First, God does his good pleasure; he saves whomever he wants. God’s counsel is his eternal plan of history. God’s decrees are all his purposes within his counsel. There are many decrees of God, but only one counsel. Predestination is God’s decree to elect some and reprobate others. As with all the decrees, predestination is again simply based on God’s good pleasure.
This is over against the Arminian teaching that faith is man’s contribution to salvation. They teach resistible grace, not the irresistible grace manifested in the scriptures. All hearts are hard by nature, but God softens the hearts of the elect. We see that in Acts 16:14, where Lydia was given a new heart, and in Ezekiel 36:26–27, where God promises to give his people new hearts in place of their old, stony ones and to put his spirit in them.
Sing or pray Psalter #2.
May 15 Read Deuteronomy 7:1–11 and Canons Head 1, Article 6
This work of God to save some and not others is described in this article as “discrimination.” The world loves to talk about how we must not discriminate against anyone. If God discriminated, that would make him a respecter of persons, they say. This would be true if God chose his people based on some characteristic, such as their nationality, education, or social status. However, God chooses his people simply based on his good pleasure; it has nothing to do with their characteristics. Ironically, it’s actually the Arminians that make God a respecter of persons, because they say God chooses those who are worthier than others.
Deuteronomy 7:7–8a reads, “The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: But because the Lord loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers.” The message is clear: God saves whom he wills. It has nothing to do with us; it is all of him. Glory be to God!
Sing or pray Psalter #3.
May 16 Read Job 38:1–18 and Canons Head 1, Article 6
The Canons teach three things about this discrimination we discussed yesterday. First, it’s profound, meaning we can’t understand why God chose whom he did. We must be thankful that God has opened our heart and must work diligently to bring the gospel to our neighbor, praying that God might use our weak means to open his heart as well. Second, God is merciful to give his people a new heart. Third, God’s discrimination is righteous, for he has full authority and right to decide what he will do with his own gifts.
In Job 38, God finally answers Job. Job has had everything taken away from him, even his health. Even though he initially glorified God in his trials, the departure of his health caused him to curse the day of his birth and wallow in despair. God now responds to Job, telling him he has no right to complain. Was Job there when God made the world and formed man out of the dust of the ground? How humbling this is when we think about how easily we complain against God and question his authority.
Sing or pray Psalter #10.
May 17 Read Romans 8:18–30 and Canons Head 1, Article 7
Election is defined here in Article 7. The main difference between the biblical and Arminian views of election is that the Bible teaches that election is God’s choice of persons, while Arminianism teaches it is God’s choice of conditions. They say that God has decreed to save everyone who falls into a certain category, but he lets man choose for himself whether he will be a part of that category or not. This corruption destroys the very idea of predestination, for it is nonsense to say that this truth merely means God said before time that he would save all those who accepted him in time.
Romans 8:30 reads, “Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” This verse is one of many that clearly demonstrates that God elected certain people. The focus of the verse is on those whom he predestinated, not on his criteria for predestinating someone. This is a great comfort for us, because if we were saved based on our worthiness, then we would all be lost.
Sing or pray Psalter #13.
May 18 Read I Corinthians 1:18–31 and Canons Head 1, Article 7
Today, we will look at nine truths this article teaches about election. First, election is God’s purpose, not a random selection of people. Second, election is unchangeable, for God never changes his mind. Third, God’s decree of election is eternal, meaning he decreed to save his people before the beginning of time. Fourth, election is unconditional, meaning God didn’t choose us because he foresaw some quality in us. Fifth, election is gracious. It is “undeserved, unmerited, and even forfeited favor.” Sixth, election is personal, meaning God decreed exactly who his elect would be, not just that he would save an elect people. Seventh, those who are elected are saved and have been given all the blessings of salvation, not just external privileges or positions of service, as the Arminians teach. Eighth, those who are elected are no more deserving of it than those who are not. There is no reason to boast, whereas the Arminian lie gives man every reason to boast. Ninth, the goal of election is the glorification of God. Arminianism robs God of his glory. We must thank God from the bottom of our hearts that he has chosen us, wretched sinners that we are.
Sing or pray Psalter #17.
May 19 Read Hebrews 8 and Canons Head 1, Article 7
There is one remaining truth about election taught here, which we will look at today. Election is in Christ, for it’s only through his sacrifice that we are saved. We see this in Hebrews 8, where we read that Christ is our high priest, our mediator, in the better covenant. He is the head of God’s people, who are now gathered from all the nations of the world. Arminians agree that Christ is the head of the church, but they deny he’s the head of the elect. To say this would be to admit that Christ determines who the elect are, which the Arminian rejects. Arminians pretend to make much of Christ, but they really believe he is nothing more than a potential head of a potential people. If no one chooses to believe, then Christ, for all his efforts, is no one’s head. Therefore, Arminian election is impersonal, because God has nothing to do with who is saved. How comforting it is for us to know that the only way we could fall out of the covenant would be if Christ fell, which is impossible. The elect and Christ stand together.
Sing or pray Psalter #22.
May 20 Read Ephesians 1:1–14 and Canons Head 1, Rejection of Errors 1
This error rejection focuses on one of the truths about election brought out in Article 7: that election is personal. The teaching of the Reformed fathers and the Arminians here are polar opposites. As Rev. McGeown puts it, “The Arminians said, ‘Faith and obedience determine who are elected.’ The Reformed fathers said, ‘Election determines who will believe and obey.’ Arminianism proclaims an election in which God elects nobody. The Bible teaches an election in which God chooses a particular people for himself.”
The Canons prove that election is personal by citing John 17:6, Acts 13:48, and Ephesians 1:4. In John 17:6, Jesus prays to his heavenly Father, saying he’d preached to all those whom the Father had given him. In Acts 13:48, Paul and Barnabas had just told the Jews that the gospel would now be preached to the Gentiles, because they had rejected the truth. The Gentiles rejoiced when they heard this “and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.” Paul then in Ephesians 1:4, rejoiced with the Ephesians that God had chosen them in Christ “before the foundation of the world.” Scripture clearly demonstrates the comforting truth that election is for me and you personally.
Sing or pray Psalter #31.
May 21 Read Psalm 115 and Canons Head 1, Article 8
God’s word is simple, but the heretics try to make it complicated. The Arminians teach that God decrees to save only the elect, while also desiring to save all men through the preaching. This is a blatant contradiction, and there are many verses in the Bible that show the oneness of God’s will. In Job 23:13, Job says of God, “But he is in one mind, and who can turn him? and what his soul desireth, even that he doeth.” Psalm 115:3 and Psalm 135:6 say that God does whatever he pleases, and Daniel 4:35 adds that no one can stop or question him.
This article also refutes the idea of dispensationalism, which teaches that God has two people: the Jews and the church. In opposition to this, the article makes it clear that there is only one decree of election that includes all of God’s people, in both the Old and New Testament. God’s Word is simple, but wicked man works hard to complicate it in his efforts to sneak in the lie.
Sing or pray Psalter #49.
May 22 Read Matthew 7:7–20 and Canons Head 1, Rejection of Errors 2
The Bible does talk about different kinds of election. Israel was elected in distinction from the heathen nations around them. Within that election, there were also those who were not God’s people. In addition, there was also the election of men to different offices. Saul was elected to be king of Israel, and Judas was elected to be one of Jesus’ disciples, although these men were reprobate. It was the election of God unto eternal life, however, that the Arminians focused their efforts on.
It is things like this that can make the lie so difficult to detect. Although today Arminians are content to openly teach conditions, it used to be that they tried to hide these false teachings and disguise it to look like the truth. They would take the idea that there are different kinds of election and twist it to mean there are different kinds of election unto eternal life. We must always be on guard against the new errors that are stealthily being pronounced around us. Those who teach these things are the wolves in sheep’s clothing Jesus warned against in Matthew 7:15.
Sing or pray Psalter #33.
May 23 Read Romans 9:1–29 and Read Canons Head 1, Rejection of Errors 2
The Arminians believed in two decrees of election: one general decree for all humanity and one particular. The particular decree could be one that had to be completed by man, and God didn’t decree whether these elected members would persevere in faith; that was up to them. This decree also depended on the fulfillment of certain conditions. Then, to make matters much more confusing they contradicted themselves to say that this decree could also be complete, irrevocable, decisive, and absolute. The decree could be completed by God, or it could not. The decree could be cancelled, or it could not. The decree could be one where God decreed who would believe and persevere in faith, or it could not. The decree could be one where God knows that those who believe will be saved, or it could not. Still, after we wade through all this nonsense, we realize that one word is still missing: the word “unconditional”. All these distinctions are nothing more than a smokescreen for the Arminians to teach conditional election. Over against all this confusion and nonsense we embrace the clear truth found in Romans 9.
Sing or pray Psalter #41.
May 24 Read Galatians 2:11–21 and Canons Head 1, Article 9
The main point of this article is that election is unconditional. According to the Arminian, salvation depends upon the faith of obedience (and perseverance in those things till death) of man. They use the image that God looks down the corridor of time, sees that Tom will believe, and so he elects him. He also sees that Sally will not believe, so he doesn’t elect her. This makes foreseen faith the prerequisite, cause, and condition for God choosing you. It’s something required before your election, like the passport and visa needed to enter the United States. However, the truth is that faith and the other gifts of salvation “proceed” from election. In Galatians 2:20–21, Paul says we gained faith by Christ’s sacrifice, for if we could gain faith of ourselves there would have been no reason for Christ to die.
We have here two radically different viewpoints regarding the relationship of election and faith. The Arminians say that faith is the condition on which election depends, while the Reformed say that faith is the fruit and effect of election. Election comes first, then faith, not the other way around. What a humbling and God-glorifying truth!
Sing or pray Psalter #42.
May 25 Read Galatians 5:16–26 and Canons Head 1, Rejection of Errors 4
Arminianism is closer to Pelagianism than it is to the word of God. As Rev. McGeown writes, “Pelagius, a heretic condemned in the early church, taught the free will of man and the ability of man to be saved by his own efforts, while he denied the depravity of man’s nature. Indeed, Pelagius denied that grace is necessary for salvation.” Similarly, Arminians said there were conditions of election unto faith, which this rejection of error addresses, and conditions of election unto salvation. These conditions for being elected unto faith are using the light of nature aright, being pious, being humble, being meek, and being fit for eternal life. In order to say this, Arminians must teach that man by nature has some good in him.
The truth is that, instead of being conditions man must fulfil in order to be elected, these things flow out of election “as water flows from a mountain.” The fruits of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5 aren’t present in man by nature. We are given these things through Christ and grow in them our entire lives. We must be on guard and make sure we are always distinguishing between conditions and fruit.
Sing or pray Psalter #47.
May 26 Read John 15:1–17 and Canons Head 1, Rejection of Errors 5
This rejection of error addresses the Arminian teaching that there are conditions of election unto salvation. According to them, there are different conditions for “incomplete and non-decisive election” and “complete and decisive election.” Those elected completely and decisively are “more worthy” than others, because God saw that they would persevere in faith, the obedience of faith, holiness, and godliness; the other would only have these qualities for a time. What a proud doctrine!
Oh, how this appeals to our sinful flesh! As mentioned earlier, by nature we are always looking for some way to exalt ourselves above others. Maybe we think we are a better ball player than someone else. Maybe we think we’re smarter. Maybe we think we’re a better parent. Maybe we think we have a better mind for business. Maybe we think we’re more likeable. Maybe we think we’re a better Christian. That’s the trap in which the Arminians find themselves. The Bible is clear in its refuting of this foolish doctrine. John 15:16 is just one example: “Ye did not choose me, but I chose you.” Gloria in excelsis deo.
Sing or pray Psalter #48.
May 27 Read Galatians 4:1–7 and Canons Head 1, Article 10
Article 10 proves that who God elected is based only on his good pleasure. Romans 8:14 says that God’s sons are those who are “led by the Spirit,” and verses 15–17 go on to explain that we are his adopted children and heirs of the kingdom of heaven. Similarly, Galatians 4:4–7 says that we were made under the law, but Christ redeemed us from under the law and made us the adopted sons of God. We were only servants, but we have been made his sons and heirs through Christ. John 1:13 clearly states that God saves whom he will when it says of us, “Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”
Another important point here is that the word “peculiar” comes from the Old Testament and is applied to the New Testament. This is important, because it demonstrates that there is only one people of God throughout history. We see this in verses like Exodus 19:5 and 1 Peter 2:9. There is one church of God from beginning to end.
Sing or pray Psalter #54.
May 28 Read 2 Timothy 1:3–18 and Canons Head 1, Rejection of Error 3
Arminians say God could have chosen any condition he wanted, but he chose the “act of faith” with “its incomplete obedience” as a condition of salvation. This means God “lowered the bar” for us so that we would have a chance to be saved. Perfect obedience was unattainable, so God “graciously” decided to accept imperfect obedience as enough. This is how the Arminian attempts to insert God’s grace into a picture devoid of it.
There are a few problems with this. First, faith is only undeserving if it’s the gift of God. If it’s the work of man, then faith is deserved, a meritorious activity or work. Second, it would be unjust of God to consider incomplete obedience to be complete obedience. Third, eternal life is only given by grace, not on the basis of faith and incomplete obedience. Therefore, this false teaching is an assault on God’s good pleasure, on the merit of Christ’s death, and on God’s justice. We thank God that he equips us to fight these errors around us with beautiful passages like 2 Timothy 1:9.
Sing or pray Psalter #57.
May 29 Read Revelation 1:1–8 and Canons Head 1, Article 11
This article is about the certainty of election. God’s attributes prove that this is true. If election depended on man it would be uncertain, because man is uncertain. The Canons focus on four of God’s attributes to prove election’s certainty. First, God is “most wise.” He works everything perfectly to the glory of his name. Second, God is “unchangeable.” Election cannot become reprobation. God never changes his mind. Third, God is “omniscient.” He knows everything about the past, present, and future, for he decreed it all. Nothing can surprise God or thwart his plan. Fourth, God is “omnipotent.” All power comes from him. As God says in Revelation 1:8, “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and end, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.” This is a wonderful, solid foundation for our faith. We have absolutely nothing to fear. God is in complete control and working everything for our good. Glory to God in the highest!
Sing or pray Psalter #58.
May 30 Read Matthew 24:15–28 and Canons Head 1, Rejection of Error 6
Arminians believe that some of the elect perish. We can fall out of the covenant by failing to persevere in faith. The fathers at Dordt called this a “gross error.” It is gross, first of all, because it makes God changeable. Those whom he decreed to save are not saved after all. Secondly, it is gross because it destroys the comfort of God’s people. We know the sinfulness of our hearts; how terrifying, therefore, to believe we can be ripped out of heaven and thrown into hell because of our sinful actions. How terrifying to believe that our salvation hangs by the thread of our own free will!
The Canons provide a sampling of scripture passages that expose this false teaching. In Matthew 24:24 we are warned against the false prophets, who would deceive God’s people if it were possible. The implication here is clearly that it isn’t a possibility. Christ says in John 6:39 that he doesn’t lose any of his children, but that they will all be raised at the end. Finally, we again have the comforting words of Romans 8:30, where we are assured that all those who were predestinated will indeed receive heavenly glory.
Sing or pray Psalter #132.
May 31 Read 1 Thessalonians 1 and Canons Head 1, Article 12
This article talks about the assurance we have of our salvation. Actually, it’s more than that. The Arminians agreed we can have this assurance at any particular time. What they rejected was that we can be assured that we will remain saved our entire lives. However, it is not good for God’s people to doubt their eternal election. This is sin, for it doubts God’s work. Assurance is not just for a select few in the congregation who have had some special experience or revelation, but it is for all of God’s people. This is the sad teaching of the Netherlands Reformed. What a terrifying existence! What if I live my whole life waiting for my special experience, and it never comes? What if I make up an event to become a member and must live believing my salvation is a lie? No, the scriptures instruct us not to live in doubt. The personal pronouns (us, you, me, and we) in verses like Romans 9:23–24, 1 Thessalonians 1:4–5, and 1 Peter 1:2–5 indicate that Paul was talking about specific people who had the assurance of salvation and encouraged their fellow saints to have it as well.
Sing or pray Psalter #133.
June 1 Read 2 Corinthians 7 and Canons Head 1, Article 12
So, we have assurance of our salvation, but where does it come from? Our assurance simply comes from seeing the fruits of election in ourselves that are laid out in God’s word. The first of these fruits is faith in Christ. This is the main one, from which the others flow. One of these fruits that comes out of faith is filial fear. This means that we desire to please God, just as a son desires to please his father. The wicked never have this, as we read in Romans 3:18. The second fruit that flows out of faith is a godly sorrow for sin. The wicked have a certain sorrow for sin, but this sorrow is just because of sin’s consequences. Only the elect have a true sorrow of heart that they have transgressed God’s commandments, as taught in 2 Corinthians 7:10. Third, God’s people have a hunger and thirst after righteousness. It is when we observe these fruits in our lives that we have the wonderful assurance of our election. Do you observe these in your life?
Sing or pray Psalter #134.
June 2 Read Colossians 1:1–14 and Canons Head 1, Article 13
The Arminians argued that it’s harmful to believe we have assurance of our salvation. What would be the motivation for continuing in a life of good works if you already knew you were saved, they said? In answer to this, the Canons set forth five fruits of this assurance. The first of these fruits is humility. Salvation is all of God, so there is no reason to boast. The second fruit is worship. God saves the chief of sinners, as we read in 1 Timothy 1:15. As assured Christians, we must praise God for his mercy towards us. Third is holiness. 2 Corinthians 7:1 tells us that we must cleanse ourselves from the filthiness of sin. The fourth fruit is love for God. We love God in return for his love for us (John 14:15). The final fruit is gratitude. In Colossians 1:12, we read that one of the ways we walk worthy of the Lord is by “Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.”
Sing or pray Psalter #161.
June 3 Read Romans 6:1–14 and Canons Head 1, Article 13
Article 13 goes on to address two main Arminian concerns regarding how assurance makes one careless and profane. The first of these was that it encourages “remissness in the observance of the divine commands.” However, Q&A 114 of the Heidelberg Catechism states that Christians are holy, they have a desire to keep God’s commandments, and they do begin to live according to all those commandments in this life. The second charge was that it gives men “carnal security,” but the truth is that this assurance leads us to be holy (Rom 6:1–2), not to “live it up.”
What kinds of people, then, does this make careless and profane? The first one mentioned in the article is someone who claims to be a Christian and latches onto certain doctrines to justify his wicked life. The second is someone who likes to philosophize about doctrines without actually applying them to his own life. Do either of these describe us? Do we give the world a cause to blaspheme by the hypocritical way we live?
Sing or pray Psalter #170.
June 4 Read 1 Timothy 4:6–16 and Canons Head 1, Article 14
Today we will look at the necessity of the preaching of election, before moving on to its manner and purpose tomorrow. There are many ministers who claim to be Reformed who are reluctant to preach this. They might be afraid of people in the pew who find it offensive and rave about it being unfair. Maybe they’re worried the people won’t understand it, but the truth of God’s word is very simple compared to the convoluted lies that oppose it. Others are worried about how easily the doctrine can be abused, but this isn’t a real reason for not preaching it.
The main reason the doctrine has to be preached is that it’s in the Bible. We don’t have the right to ignore parts of scripture. Our churches have their ministers continuously preach through the Heidelberg Catechism so that they regularly preach all the doctrines found in the Bible. It’s true that there are certain aspects of the doctrine that belong to the “secret things” of God, but that is not the case of the doctrine itself. To hide a doctrine taught in scripture would be to try and make ourselves wiser than God.
Sing or pray Psalter #180.
June 5 Read Deuteronomy 29:21–29 and Canons Head 1, Article 14
What is the manner in which election should be preached? The article says it must be “in due time and place.” Election must be preached in the church, but also out on the mission field. The capacity of the hearers determines how the minister approaches the subject, although it never gives him license to ignore it. As mentioned earlier, the Canons carefully laid the groundwork before they preached this doctrine directly, demonstrating to us the importance of approaching it appropriately and reverently.
What is the purpose of such preaching? The aim must be to glorify God. In addition, it must be taught without trying to discover the secret things and fill our minds with frivolous speculation (Deut. 29:29). We are assured that God has chosen us and not others, but it’s not for us to know if each person is saved or not, or to explain why one is saved and another is damned with anything other than it’s the good pleasure of God. The doctrine of election must be preached, for it edifies and comforts God’s people and glorifies our heavenly Father.
Sing or pray Psalter #178.
June 6 Read Jude 1–16 and Canons Head 1, Article 15
As mentioned regarding election, the Canons writers wisely waited until now to treat reprobation. The Arminians like to put all the focus on this doctrine and scream about how this makes God a horrible people-hater. Because of this, we need to make sure to carefully place the doctrine in its proper place. Reprobation is “the rejection of some from salvation and glory.” This is implied by election, because by choosing something you are rejecting all other options. The four things we learn about reprobation in this article are that God doesn’t elect all, that he has determined to pass some by, that he’s decreed not to give the reprobate saving faith and conversion, and that he’s determined to punish the reprobate forever in hell.
It’s important that we understand the difference between damnation and reprobation. Reprobation is God’s eternal decree, as mentioned in Jude 4, and damnation is God’s sentencing a person to hell. Reprobation isn’t on the basis of sin (that would be Arminianism), while damnation is the result of reprobation and sin. It’s through a proper and clear understanding of these terms that we are equipped to witness to those God places in our path.
Sing or pray Psalter #187.
June 7 Read Exodus 9:13–26 and Canons Head 1, Article 15
What is the purpose of reprobation? For one, it demonstrates the grace of God in saving a particular people. It also makes salvation precious to believers, as they see what they’ve been saved from. It shows the elect that they have no reason to boast, for they are equally undeserving. In addition, this doctrine shows the awesomeness of God and displays his glory, sovereignty, and terrible wrath.
We must always remember that reprobation serves election, like the chaff serves the wheat. Saul served Jonathan by being his father and bringing David into his life. Saul served David by giving him the chance to fight Goliath and later forcing David to put all his trust in God as he fled for his life. The wicked Jews who crucified Christ served the elect Jews and Gentiles, because Jesus’ death on the cross was the victory over sin and the beginning of the gospel being preached to all nations. The Bible and all of history are full of examples, such as the one in Exodus 9. Can you think of some?
Sing or pray Psalter #191.
Note: Nearly all of the commentary contained in these devotionals, as well as their organization, comes from Rev. McGeown’s book Grace and Assurance.