************ Sermon on Canons of Dort, Head I, Articles 8-9 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on April 14, 2013
Canons, Head I, Articles 8-9 & Rejection II
"Wrong Views of Election"
Last time, in looking at Article 7, we learned all about the what, why, how, and purpose of God's eternal decree of election.
First, we learned about the what of election. We said to speak of election is to speak of God's purpose. God's purpose, we learned, is both "before the foundation of the world" and "unchangeable."
Second, we learned about the why of election. We said that God elects out of "sheer grace" and "the free good pleasure of his will." God chooses whom He chooses out of grace and because He delights to choose them.
Third, we learned about the how of election. We said that God "chose in Christ from beginning to end." This means that God not only chooses in Christ, but in Christ He also calls, justifies, and glorifies.
Finally, we learned about the reason or purpose of election. We said that God's ultimate purpose is not the salvation of the elect. God's ultimate purpose is not to pluck some from the everlasting fires. We said that God's ultimate purpose is His own glory.
I One Decree of Election - Article 8
A Article 8 starts off by saying, "This election is not of many kinds." It combats here the error of those who believe in different kinds of election. These different kinds are mentioned in Rejection II. The Synod rejects the error of those
Who teach that God's election to eternal life is of many kinds: one general and indefinite, the other particular and definite ... Likewise, who teach that there is one election to faith and another to salvation ...Of course, the Canons were taking aim against the Arminians who talked of six or more kinds of election.
This error is very old. Back in the fourth century the Pelagians were guilty of the same error. And, the Jesuits of the 16th and 17th centuries maintained the exact same error when they taught there was an election for those without sin, and an election for those with sin. The Jesuits also said there was an election unto salvation through the law, and an election unto salvation through Christ. They understood God as having a decree for every single possibility.
The New Scofield Bible, which some of you may be acquainted with, makes the same error as the Jesuits. It recognizes seven distinct dispensations and teaches that there is a distinct election decree for believers in each of the seven dispensations.
B Over against those who talk or think this way the Canons maintain that there is but one kind of election:
... election is not of many kinds; it is one and the same election for all who were to be saved in the Old and the New Testament. For Scripture declares that there is a single good pleasure, purpose, and plan of God's will, by which he chose us from eternity ...
We see here that the Canons strongly believe in something important to the Reformed faith: that is, it believes in the essential unity or oneness of the Old and New Testament periods. There is one kind of election which applies to all those who are saved, whether they live in Old or New Testament times. There is but one promise. There is but one Gospel. There is but one Savior. And, there is but one people of God. Therefore, Abel and Enoch and Noah were included from eternity in the same decree of election as were Paul and Silas and Timothy. And, Abraham and Isaac and Jacob were included from eternity in the same decree of election as were Lydia and Dorcas and the Philippian jailor. All the saints, every lost one of them, were included from eternity in the one decree of election, to receive the one salvation in Christ. Because God has only one decree of salvation, we must renounce any and every system which proclaims any kind of salvation apart from Christ.
The mind and counsel of God is the same, whether it is yesterday, today, or forever (Heb 13:8).
This does not mean, of course, that there is no difference between the Old and New Testament periods. Yes, there is a difference, but it is a difference not in decree or in grace; rather, it is the difference between a shadow and the real thing, between a promise and its fulfillment. In the Old Testament, as you know, the ceremonies and sacrifices of the Law all pointed forward to Christ. We in the New Testament, on the other hand, don't have shadows or types when it comes to Christ and salvation because we have the real thing.
The New Scofield Bible, which I mentioned earlier, makes the error of not recognizing the essential oneness or unity of the Old and New Testament periods. It recognizes seven distinct dispensations and says God deals differently with people in each dispensation.
C There is a single election decree of God. And, by that single decree God chose us from eternity
both to grace and to glory, both to salvation and to the way of salvation ...This too is written against the Arminians. They taught that it was entirely possible to be chosen unto grace but not unto glory; that it was entirely possible to be chosen unto the way of salvation but not to salvation itself.
The Arminians believe this way because they put the decision of salvation and glory in the hands of men rather than in the hands of God. All depends on whether a man believes and perseveres in the faith. According to their way of thinking it was always possible for a Christian to lose grace, to wander away from the Gospel and the way of salvation. With this kind of Gospel there is never any assurance of salvation; instead, a person's heart is filled with doubt and fear. Always the question remains whether someone will persevere until they breathe their last breath.
Over against this the Canons state that election includes both grace and glory, both the way to salvation and salvation itself. There is only one election decree and it includes all the blessings of salvation mentioned by our Bible reading: foreknew, predestined, called, justified, glorified. Grounded in Christ and His work, God's eternal election decree grants us surety about salvation. It has nothing to do with us; it has to do only with Christ.
After hearing this explained, people often say, "You mean there's nothing I can do to deserve it? That's too easy." Many find it difficult to understand that election and salvation are free gifts.
We had a carrier for the roof of our car. I tried to sell it through a newspaper advertisement, but no one showed any interest. It was too good to throw away so I brought it to the road and put a sign on it, "Free for the taking."In the same way, there are peoples and religions that believe you need to pay for or earn salvation. But it is free, free, free.
Someone came to the door. "Is it really free?" "Yes," I said, "It is yours for the taking." "I can't take that for free." With that he put $20 in my hand and drove away with the carrier.
II Election Not Because of Something in Us - Art. 9
A Like Article 8, Article 9 is also directed against the Arminian viewpoint. They taught that election is conditional. They say election depends upon foreseen faith, obedience, holiness, and other good qualities. They say only those who meet these conditions or are foreseen to meet these conditions are elect and can count on eternal life.
Those who talk and think this way compare election to a movie God has already seen. He knows what each of the characters will do, and so He elects them on that basis.
This is nothing short of heresy. The reason is plain. A conditional election shortchanges God. His job is to foresee who will believe, and who will not; who will persevere, and who will not. A conditional election says God foresees, and on the basis of that foresight He elects or does not elect. A conditional election means God is no longer almighty and sovereign. A conditional election means God is not the Determiner of all, the Determiner Who has the whole world and everyone and everything in it in His hand. A conditional election means God is not free and independent but makes Him dependent upon mankind. A conditional election, then, can only mean that God is no longer God. But the Bible says God is sovereign and free in His election decree. Paul says:
(Rom 9:15-16) For [God] says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." (16) It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy.
Furthermore, remember what we learned last time. We said God's election decree is based upon His purpose. As Paul writes to the Ephesians,
(Eph 1:11) In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, Which means God's decree cannot be based upon foreknowledge.
B A conditional election means that the decree of election is not really the work of God, but the work of man; and the decision of election is not really in eternity with God, but in time with man. It comes down to this: is salvation determined by God or by man?
Those who believe in a conditional election say faith, obedience, holiness, and other good qualities in man come first, and election comes second. But the Bible teaches that election is first, and that faith, obedience, holiness, and other good qualities are second. For instance, in a passage from Ephesians quoted by the Canons, Paul says,
(Eph 1:4) For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.The Arminians teach that election is because of faith, obedience, holiness, and other good qualities. The Bible teaches the very opposite: faith and obedience and holiness are because of election.
We must not forget that election is always unto something, not because of something. Election is for the purpose of faith, obedience, and holiness. Election is not because of faith, obedience, holiness, or any other good quality. Election is the cause, and faith and obedience are the effects – not the other way around as is so often taught today.
C Based upon the Bible, the Canons see God and election as a fountain from which bubbles forth a stream of living water. From the fountain of God bubbles forth the stream of faith, obedience, holiness, and every good quality. This fountain is eternal and unchangeable. It cannot be dried up. It cannot be shut off. It cannot be diverted. Always it flows.
In conclusion permit me to make a practical observation about the differences among churches today. We live in an age when doctrinal differences are frequently minimized, when they are reduced to the rank of the unimportant and non-essential. Differences in doctrine becomes a matter of "opinion," or a "difference of viewpoint," or a "difference of emphasis." As someone said to me in my office, "You are quarreling about nothing."
In contrast to this, the Canons don't minimize differences. It boldly condemns and repudiates and denies. In a straight-forward manner it condemns the Arminian viewpoint: election is not of many kinds; election is not on the basis of foreseen faith, obedience, and holiness. There are no multiple decrees of election. There are no conditions to election. Election and salvation are of God and only of God.
(1Tim 1:17) [So] to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
Back to Index of Sermons Page