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The Canons of Dort, First Head of Doctrine, Article 5

Synod%20of%20Dort.jpgArticle 5: The Sources of Unbelief and of Faith

The cause or blame for this unbelief, as well as for all other sins, is not at all in God, but in man. Faith in Jesus Christ, however, and salvation through him is a free gift of God. As Scripture says, It is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this not from yourselves; it is a gift of God (Eph. 2:8). Likewise: It has been freely given to you to believe in Christ (Phil. 1:29).
At this point, the Canons deal with the difficult question as to why some people believe the gospel when it is preached to them, while others reject that same gospel.  The authors of the Canons are very careful to follow the biblical testimony about this matter and so they assign all the blame for eternal loss to humanity while giving all glory to God for the salvation of any of Adam's fallen children!

It is often objected, “if salvation depends entirely upon the grace of God, and not all are saved, then God is somehow unfair in his dealings with his creatures."  We often hear the question, "why didn’t God chose everyone?”  Others have objected, “it seems as though God is somehow preventing people from believing!” 

If the starting point set out by the authors of the Canons is correct—human sinfulness and total inability—then the only reason why any perish is because of the guilt of their sin.  Those who are lost eternally bear all responsibility for their own sins.  On top of that, they are also guilty for their participation in the sin of Adam, who acted as their federal and biological representative in the Garden of Eden.  Simply put, people suffer eternal loss (hell) because they are sinful and will not believe the gospel.  They do not suffer eternal loss because God deals unfairly with them.

Since all of us are dead in sin and unable to respond to the gospel on our own, our salvation must be seen as a free gift from God.  This is what Scripture clearly teaches, as the Canons so clearly indicate.  We are saved “by grace through faith, this is not of ourselves.”  It is “God who works in us to will and do of his good pleasure!” 

The Scriptures also teach that God has not only ordained the ends [who will be saved] but he ordains the means by which they will be saved [the preaching of the gospel].  And the chosen instrument through which sinful men and women receive the merits of Christ (which alone can save them from eternal loss), is faith alone.  This is what God has ordained and what the Canons set forth.

But the question remains, "why do some believe in Jesus Christ and others reject him?"  This is the real question here and humanly speaking it is difficult to answer.  Unless God gives to us an answer to this question, we cannot know why some believe and others do not, we can only guess.

The answer given us in Scripture as to why some believe and others do not, is crystal clear--God in his grace, gives the gift of salvation to those whom he has chosen to be saved, and that through faith, God’s elect embrace the Savior who has been proclaimed to them through the foolishness of preaching.  This pattern is set forth by Paul in the first chapter of Ephesians (vv. 3-14):  

    3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.  11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

Yet, those whom God does not elect are justly passed over and left to the consequences of their own sins and their guilt in Adam.  Dead in sin and under God’s just condemnation, they freely and willfully reject the savior and therefore, tragically, perish eternally.  This is clearly taught in Romans 9:10-24.

    10 And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— 12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”  14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. 19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?

At the end of the day, if we think that we are of the elect and are Christians because of something good that God sees in us, or because of something that we have done which causes God to respond to us, we will necessarily depreciate the grace of God.  We will not see salvation as a free gift, but as a reward.  In fact, the degree to which we attribute our salvation to something good in us is the same degree to which we see ourselves higher than we ought and the degree to which we depreciate the wonderful grace of a merciful God.

Reader Comments (2)

I'm so glad you're doing this. There is not much available on the CoD. I don't suppose you could speed things up and get to the 3/4 points within a week? ;-) That's where our church is on this.
January 3, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLane Keister
"We often hear the question, 'why didn’t God chose everyone?'"

A possible answer may be, "He did; while He did not choose all men without exception, He did choose all men without distinction." Of course, the next question should be, "Why the former--without exception?" Then...what you said.

Good stuff, Kim.
January 3, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterZrim

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