Catechism and Memory

Introduction

Dear young people, you and I can be very thankful to our covenant God that He has preserved the practice of catechism instruction and learning for you and our children in our church. This practice is an ‘old path’ that goes all the way to the beginning of the church in the Old Testament.1 Though it languished for a while in the Middle Ages, it was restored during the Reformation. But alas, this heritage of the Reformation is all but lost in modern Christendom today. The concept, much less the practice, of catechism instruction is hardly known in the church world today. This is undoubtedly one of the main reasons why many churches are weak in doctrine and do not know the basics of the Christian faith. The truth of the Bible is not systematically taught to covenant children and new adult believers to ground them firmly in the faith. Doctrine is glossed over, decried as divisive, and downplayed in favour of a teaching that is man- centred, minimises sin and focuses on universal love and ecumenical union. God’s Word is not taught, but man’s godless philosophy. Unless a church returns to the old path of faithful catechism instruction, she will not maintain the truth of the Scriptures in her generations.

The inestimable value of faithful catechism instruction cannot be overstated.   It   will   take   a   separate article (or even a book) all by itself to underscore this point. In this article, this fact will be assumed. We then move on to discuss the practical aspect of catechism and memory. A few words about the importance of memorising catechism ought to be said so that you have the proper motivation in memorising your catechism. Then we’ll look at some ways to help you in your practice of catechism memorisation.

Why

Why must you memorise your catechism each week before you go to class? Why do your minister and parents require it of you? Because your parents and this church take our calling and baptismal vow to instruct you in the doctrine of the Scriptures to the utmost of our power seriously. We know that the tried and tested way of ‘sounding down’ the truth to you and have you ‘echo back the truth’, is one of the best ways, if not the best way, for you to learn and remember the grand, biblical truths of the Reformed faith. Memorising the catechism questions and answers will fix the truth in your minds.   When as young children, you memorise the Bible stories, you inscribe biblical history and facts deep in your young and absorbent minds. As the doctrines and truths of Scripture are taught to you and woven into your lives from as young as you can remember, they shape your thinking and mould your character, so that you grow up to be God-fearing young men and women. And by God’s grace, you will one day confess publicly before the church that precious faith you’ve been taught and have come to love.

As you grow into adulthood and face the trials of life, as you certainly will, then having the catechism in your memories will enable you to draw strength and find comfort to go through those difficult times. The beautiful language of   our   Heidelberg   Catechism   will come to you as you lay hold, by faith, of the glorious truth of our certain preservation as God’s children unto the end, assured that “I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own but belong unto my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ…yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation”. Thus strengthened, you persevere in your pilgrim’s pathway, looking for the city which hath foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God.

And if the Lord leads you to find a godly spouse and enter marriage, and give you children, then you will also teach   them   the   catechism,   require that   they   memorise   the   questions and answers, and explain to them the inestimable spiritual value of doing so by your own experience. In this way, the church, through you and other godly families, will raise up another generation who knows the Lord. And the cycle continues from generation to generation. Thus, God by His sovereign grace is pleased to preserve His truth among us and His church in our generations until the Lord Jesus Christ returns.

How

I hope you see why it is important that you memorise your catechism, and you are now properly motivated to do it. So how can you better memorise your catechism? Here are two ways I have found helpful for myself and my family.

First, Memorise the overview or big picture of the catechism. For the younger children’s catechism, memorise which main sections of OT or NT history the various stories fall into. For the older children, memorise the overall structure of the Heidelberg Catechism (Introduction : Q&A 1-2; Sin : Q&A 3-11; Salvation : Q&A 12-85; Service : Q&A 86-129). Having this big picture constantly at the back of your mind would not only help you to memorise the specific questions and answers better, but also helps you appreciate how a particular truth fits into the overall biblical narrative or the entire body of faith. For example, when the HC deals with the requirements of the law commandment by commandment, it does so under the 3rd section of the catechism on ‘Thankfulness’, showing that the 10 Commandments continue to be relevant in the life of a child of God as a rule for thankful living. So, as you memorise the questions and answers to each of the Commandments, you are always mindful that you obey them not to earn any favour or reward with God, but to express your deep gratitude for His sovereign grace in saving you from all your sin and misery.

Second, make catechism memory part of your daily routine. Parents, make it part of the daily routine of your child. Perhaps during lunch or dinner time, you could take out your catechism book (or an electronic version on your mobile phone) and memorise the questions (you have one week – so you don’t have to memorise everything in one sitting!). Parents can go through the catechism with their children before or after family devotion times. Just like we do for our personal and family devotions, build catechism memorisation into your daily routine. Once you establish the habit, it will become easier. Perhaps initially the daily memorisation feels onerous.

Some days you would probably miss doing it. Many times, you might feel like giving up. But don’t! Pray and ask the Lord for strength. Persevere, for in the long term, not only does it become easier, but you will also begin to enjoy it and realise how much you’re learning each day! The benefits far outweigh any difficulties you may encounter, for you are building up an entire storehouse of the knowledge of the truth of God’s Word. That is priceless!

Conclusion

Catechism instruction and memorisation is one of the greatest blessings for the church. It is part of our rich reformed heritage. Let us treasure it and preserve its practice in CERC.

Parents, be not weary in the well-doing of having your children memorise the catechism, week in and week out. For in due season, you shall reap. This is the Lord’s promise: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Pro. 22:6). Young people, memorise your catechism! It will do you, and the church of which you are a living member, great spiritual good – now and in the generations to come.

REFERENCE

Engelsma, David, (1997). Catechism! Michigan, USA: RFPA, Standard Bearer, Vol 73, Issue 21. http:// standar dbear er.r fpa.org/ar ticles/ catechism-1

Cammenga, Ronald, (1984). Catechism. Michigan, USA: RFPA, Standard Bearer, Vol 60, Issue 21. http://standardbearer.rfpa.org/articles/ catechism-0

Gritters, Barry, (2008). Catechism: The Old Path, the Good Way (1). Michigan, USA: RFPA, Standard Bearer, Vol 84, Issue 20.

Gritters, Barry, (2008). Catechism: The Old Path, the Good Way (2). Michigan, USA: RFPA, Standard Bearer, Vol 84, Issue 20.

Van Dyken, Donald, (2000). Rediscovering Catechism: The Art of Equipping Covenant Children. New Jersey, USA.

Written by: Lee Kong Wee | Issue 42

Lest We Forget (II)

In the last editorial, I mentioned that through the ecclesiastical contacts of First Evangelical Reformed Church (FERC) in Singapore, the Arminian doctrines of common grace, the well- meant offer of the gospel, and the conditional covenant have made inroads into the Reformed churches in Singapore. In ten short years after their adoption of divorce and remarriage, these Arminian doctrines have found fertile ground in FERC.

Lest we forget, it was only ten years ago in 2007 that FERC still belonged to a faithful denomination, the Evangelical Reformed Churches in Singapore (ERCS). For over twenty years, the ERCS confessed the sovereignty and particularity of God’s grace in salvation. Prior to her institution in 1982, she had   received   distinctive   instruction in the Reformed faith through her contact with the Protestant Reformed Churches in America (PRCA).

As early as 1979, emissaries from the PRCA began instructing the young group of believers in Singapore concerning the heresy of common grace and the particularity of God’s grace. These emissaries reported the instruction that they gave:

We stressed that the grace called common is a non-entity and exists only in the minds of those who seek justification for fellowship with the world, whose good deeds are ethically ever only corrupt, while they indeed may be good in a functional sense. We emphasized the absolute antithesis established by God’s particular grace as our God calls children of light out of the children of darkness, life out of death, etc. This speech was very appreciatively received by many and they saw clearly that we are called to an antithetical walk.1

The emissaries also explained the PRCA’s rejection of the well-meant gospel offer:

We emphasized that the truth of election is not an hindrance to missions as is often alleged, but that it is instead an incentive for the guarantee that God has His people and that Christ has sheep which He must gather through the preaching of the Gospel by the Church.2

In 1982, after the young group of believers was organised into the ERCS, they expressed wholehearted agreement with the truths confessed by the PRCA:

We believe God has blessed you in a very special way and given you a measure of the truth that is largely lost to the churches of our day. We believe that God who gives you this truth so that we may learn from you, will in no wise leave you no avenue to proclaim it…We in the E.R.C.S. love the truth your churches have brought us…3

Through the ministries of two PRCA ministers working in the ERCS, Rev. Arie den Hartog and Rev. Jason Kortering, the ERCS continued to be instructed more fully in the Reformed faith. The two ministers on loan to the ERCS were instrumental in developing the young church’s understanding and conviction of the Reformed faith. Zealously,   they   preached,   taught, and gave much advice to the young church. They officiated at many weddings, instructing young couples in the biblical truth of marriage and the covenant home. They were also actively involved in the mission work of the ERCS. Their faithful ministries were used powerfully by God to develop the ERCS into a faithful Reformed church.

The Lord prospered the ERCS in those years. Many were gathered into the church out of heathendom. Marriages were aplenty. Young, godly families were characteristic of the ERCS. The denomination was entering into another phase of life, where the second generation   of   Reformed   believers was rising. In 1986, a daughter congregation, Covenant Evangelical Reformed Church, was organised. At their peak, the ERCS numbered over three hundred members. The denomination was spiritually healthy and vibrant.

In 1996, based on the reports of the ERCS’ minister-on-loan, Rev. Kortering, the PRCA’s Contact Committee reported that the doctrinal distinctives concerning the preaching, God’s   covenant   and   grace   were preached:

Although the ERCS has not taken an official position on the doctrines of the covenant, common grace, and free offer, they continue to preach and teach the faithful Reformed position.4

In   1997,   Rev.   Kortering   reported that the doctrinal distinctives were understood and settled:

The doctrines of the covenant, the well- meant offer, and common grace are no longer issues in the ERCS. The ERCS have grown in their understanding and appreciation of the Reformed position in these areas. The ERCS are also being more and more identified with the PRC by the church community in Singapore.5

Giving hearty approval to the instruction given by the ministers on loan, the ERCS expressed their unity in the faith with the PRCA:

This indeed is another golden opportunity for our two churches to express our unity in the faith and support of each other in this increasingly dark and sinful world of unbelief…The Reformed faith, which we have come to know and love through the ministry of your churches, we will uphold and defend with all our might in the Far East…In our observation of you, we continue to notice, with great delight, your steadfast defense of the Reformed faith in all your publications. Your undaunted effort to clarify your fine theological position is helping the Reformed community more and more to develop in greater depth of understanding of the truth.6

A Broad-Minded Spirit

Nevertheless, trouble was already brewing in the ERCS. When emissaries from the PRCA’s contact committee visited the ERCS in 2003, they expressed some “real concerns about a ‘broad-minded’ spirit in the ERCS”. This broad-minded spirit would surface a year later in the controversy over divorce and remarriage that wrecked chaos in the denomination. This broad- minded spirit manifested itself in an eagerness to learn and embrace the doctrine of divorce and remarriage that was taught by other denominations, which doctrine had been repudiated by the two PRCA ministers during their lengthy ministries in the ERCS. Today, the broad-minded spirit is very much alive in FERC. Ministers of different theological stripes are invited to preach there.

Recounting the history of the ERCS, Rev. den Hartog astutely observes that one of the main reasons for apostasy in the ERCS was a broad-minded spirit in her leadership:

 

There were those in the ERCS who in these controversies became convinced that they did not want to continue in the direction presented by men from the PRCA. The direction was considered too narrow, and there arose a desire instead to have closer fellowship with other churches. There was a strong desire on the part of some of the leaders to be more broad minded and open in tolerating different doctrinal teachings in the church that came from several different denominations which came through new members who joined the ERCS over the years.8

A broad-minded spirit always spells the destruction of a faithful denomination, as history proves. Broad-mindedness necessarily implies a toleration of different doctrines, worldviews, and practices in the church. When a church is not narrowly on guard against the wolves that seek to enter the sheepfold, she becomes susceptible to many errors and temptations.

The only remedy for a broad-minded spirit is the narrow-mindedness of Scripture and the narrow-mindedness of the Reformed confessions. In an age which celebrates an open-mindedness to every conceivable false doctrine and immorality, being narrow-minded is not popular. It is scorned and rejected by many. Jesus Himself told us: “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matt. 7:13-4). Many indeed prefer the broad and comfortable way, but shun the narrow and difficult way of the cross, of the holy Scriptures, and of the Reformed faith.

But Jesus assures us that the narrow way is the way of life and of salvation. That narrow way is the way of walking faithfully in His Word, and rejecting all things contrary to it. That is the way that CERC embraces. We are a narrow- minded church. In the way of the narrow-mindedness of the Scriptures and the Reformed confessions, we remain a faithful Reformed church.

 

1 Acts of Synod and Yearbook, Protestant Reformed Churches in America, 1979, 71-2.

2 Acts of Synod and Yearbook, Protestant Reformed Churches in America, 1979, 71-2.

3 Acts of Synod and Yearbook, Protestant Reformed Churches in America, 1982, 82.

4 Acts of Synod and Yearbook, Protestant Reformed Churches in America, 1996, 97-8.

5 Acts of Synod and Yearbook, Protestant Reformed Churches in America, 1997, 91.

6 Acts of Synod and Yearbook, Protestant Reformed Churches in America, 1996, 151-2.

7 Acts of Synod and Yearbook, Protestant Reformed Churches in America, 2003, 93.

8 Arie den Hartog, Lessons from the Beloved Church of Jesus Christ Now Among Us, in the Salt Shakers (Aug. 2014, Issue 27), 22.

 

Written by: Aaron Lim | Issue 42

Election: The Source of the Church’s Comfort

The doctrine of election is something we Reformed Christians are familiar with. It is the doctrine we confess that speaks about how the Holy God, in His sovereign good pleasure, chooses to set His love on certain individuals based on no merit of their own. (Deut 7:7, Rom 9: 11-13, Eph 1:4, 2 Tim 1:9, John 15:16 etc). However, the Word of God not only speaks of individual election, but of corporate election. The entire church, which is the body of Christ consisting of the elect only, is chosen by God, according to His sovereign good pleasure. Ephesians 1:4 says “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:” In this verse, Apostle Paul is addressing the church at Ephesus. This means that Ephesians 1: 4 can be read as “According as he hath chosen the church ….” This choosing of the church is referred to as corporate election.

Having said all that, why then is election the source of the church’s comfort?

This is because election is the source of the church! It is election that determines the existence, size, location, continuance and membership of the church. According to early reformers John Wycliffe and John Hus, the church is the company of the elect. So, as long as there are the elected ones, the church exists! Would there be a church in Singapore? China? Vietnam? Yes there would, if God has His elected ones there! Would a church continue to grow? Yes it would, if God blesses the church with covenant seed or calls out His people from a heathen world! Would the church have good leaders that look after the flock? Yes it would, since God elects some to special offices and gives some spiritual gifts for the edification of the church! (Eph 4:8-12) All in all, the church is controlled and shaped by its unconditional election in Christ. This doctrine lies at the very heart of a Reformed church. Without God electing individuals to make up His elect church, there is no church at all! This is the very reason why all a heretic has to do is to attack this doctrine to destroy the church.

This truth has implications for the church. This means that all the church has to do is to faithfully preach the gospel so that the elect can come to faith (Rom 10:17, Canons of Dort 3rd and 4th Head Article 17). This means that the church does not have to engage in ‘soul winning’ activities of the many present churches. It means that the church does not have to blunt the sharp edges of the gospel so that more people would join the church. It means that the church has no need to degrade the gospel to some “sales pitch” and beg people to come and believe to increase its membership. It means that there is no need for revival meetings and altar calls, or adding contemporary music into the worship service so as to get people to be more interested. This is of special comfort to the pastor and the leaders of a church. The church does not have to wreck her brain to continually come up with new ideas so that it can grow. Neither would the pastor need to think of the best way to make his speech most engaging or attract potential members with his personality. It is a comfort to know the existence, size location, continuance and membership of the church does not rest on the devices of sinful and depraved men, who through those efforts mentioned above, only cause people to stray even further from the truth.

The doctrine of election, providing tremendous comfort to the church, can be explained in relation to the 5 points of Calvinism. The 5 points of Calvinism consists of the doctrines of Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and Perseverance of the Saints. God has elected His church out of a world of totally depraved sinners.

And since the church is elected in Christ, Christ died for her, and only her! She is the object of God’s love! This is comforting to know because she is separated from the world, righteous before the holy God despite the debt of sins she owed and continues to owe. She is no more friends with the devil, but is reconciled with God and is guaranteed eternal life because Christ’s death covered all her sins. Because she is elected in Christ, she is given grace that cannot be effectively and ultimately resisted by the most obstinate of sinners. God will certainly change the ugliest and vilest of her members into one that is after His own heart, so that the church would one day be ready to be received into glory. And although life on this earth is wearisome and tough, and sometimes full of persecution from the world and the devil, God promises her that nothing can separate her from His love (Rom 8:37-39). God will see to it that the entire church reaches Heaven safely.

This truth is immensely practical for the church. The church consists of sinful, totally depraved creatures who are not yet made perfect on this earth. This means that there are countless times her members step on each other’s toes and offend one another, sometimes to very great extents. Using our physical eyes, it is sometimes very discouraging to see such sins and weaknesses in the church, especially when it seems as though the members of the church are not behaving very differently from the world. However, having this knowledge that Christ died for her despite all these, we obtain great comfort. God still forgives, and thus, it encourages us to learn to forgive one another. Moreover, we have the assurance that God will grant His people grace that would change them to the likeness of Christ in His time. This encourages us to learn to be patient, forgiving and understanding of one another’s weaknesses and to continually strive to keep the unity of the church, especially because we are going to spend eternity with one another.

Besides this, we gain much personal comfort from the doctrine of election because it assures us that our salvation is certain and sure. This is because those who are elected of God are regenerated, then justified, then glorified, according to the golden chain of salvation in Rom 8:29-30. This means that no child of God can be lost and not end up in Heaven. This gives us comfort especially in times when we start to doubt our salvation. There are times when we cry out, like the psalmist, and wonder if God has forgotten to be gracious (Psalm 77:9). Also, there are times when the Christian’s foot almost slips when he looks at the great prosperity of the wicked (Psalms 73:2-3). However, we do well to remember God’s particular goodness and all the blessings He freely gives to His elect. “Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart.” (Psalm 73:1). It is promises like these, to God’s elect, that grant them the confidence to face each day with the consciousness and assurance of His great love. Furthermore, because the church is elected, her members are given the new man which thoroughly opposes their sinful nature. As a result, there arises a great spiritual battle within. However, the knowledge of how far short we stand before the holy God does not discourage us. Instead, it cures our spiritual complacency. It helps us remain humble and stay at the foot of the cross, striving more and more to be sanctified so that we may be more and more holy. Knowing that we are preserved to the very end, we become truly humble, reverent, pious and rejoice solely in God. The purpose of this work that God does in conforming us to the image of Christ is so that we may be used for His glory. The doctrine of election makes us spiritually strong and confident Christians, who are assured of our salvation. It is through such people that God builds spiritually strong and godly families, which make up a strong church. All in all, God builds His church for His glory.

In conclusion, the doctrine of election is so comforting for the church. It means that God builds His church! It is His work! None of this work depends on sinful men! That in itself is such a great comfort.

Written by: Nicole Wong | Issue 10

Perseverance of the Saints

“And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.” John 6:39

This is what the doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints or also known as the Preservation of the Saints, the last point in the Five Points of Calvinism speaks of. Those who are elected by God will never lose the salvation given to them nor fall away. So how is this doctrine a comfort to believers?

Preservation of the Saints

God by His grace eternally preserves those whose hearts He has regenerated. In John 10:28 “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” Without any condition, our gracious God gives us eternal life! Not only that, our Most Highest God pledges that He will preserve His sheep and nothing can stop God from bringing His people to heaven.

In the Old Testament, God didn’t forsake Israel even when Israel turned their backs on God, sinning against Him countless of times. In the book of Jeremiah, in chapter 32, Israel worshipped idols openly, provoking God to wrath! God called them to repentance again and again but Israel ignored God, the One who had been diligently “rising up early and teaching them”. As a result of Israel’s disobedience and sin, they caused Judah to sin too. But, God who is graciously merciful to His people, promised restoration to Israel and Judah and He will “cause them to dwell safely”. Despite Israel’s and Judah’s sins, God still brings His people back to Him. Why? Because He is their God! And in verse 40, God declares “And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me.” God works in the elect sinners’ hearts that we will always go back to Him. The fear that God puts in our hearts isn’t the kind of fear that causes us to be afraid of Him, but it is the kind of fear that causes us to look to Him in awe and in reverence and acknowledge Him as a merciful God. Also, we know we can come back to Him when we sin to ask for forgiveness. We will not continually sin and fall away but come back to Him to seek forgiveness and repent. (Jeremiah 32:29-40)

Here’s an analogy: Our life is like a rock wall. The rock wall has many different kinds and types of rocks mounted onto the wall. There are rocks which are easy to grab on which represents the prosperity in our lives, while there are rocks which are difficult to grab on represents the tribulations in our lives. When we are holding on to those rocks which are easy to grab, we find that ascending up the wall is easy; we are not tired at all. However, when we are holding on to those rocks which are difficult to grab, we find ourselves struggling to ascend. But whichever rock we hold on to, it helps us to ascend to the top of the wall, which is Heaven. As we mount higher, the climbing gets harder. We are faced with strong winds which try to blow us down, and we start to lose our strength and stamina. The wind blows us hard and our grip starts to slip. This is like our pilgrim journey on Earth. The battle with Satan gets harder each day. At times we find ourselves spiritually down, tired, and at the losing end; we think there is no hope left. However, we are not blown away from the wall; we know we will not fall. Why? Firstly, because we are supported by our Be layer. God is our Be layer! He is always supporting us, making sure that we never fall. Secondly, like the Rope that joins the Be layer to us, Christ death on the cross reconciles us with God. Christ is the Rope! We have the assurance of a sure and steadfast anchor (Hebrews 6:19). What a comfort we have!

We are actually fighting a winning battle! We know we have won because when Christ comes again, God by His great power will defeat Satan once and for all (Genesis 3:15)!

Perseverance of the Saints

On the other hand, although God sovereignly preserves His elected saints, His people are still responsible to live holy and thankful lives.

In 1 John 3:2-3 “Beloved, now are we the sons of GOD, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.” As children of God, we ought to ‘walk by faith and live in hope’ – taken from Matthew Henry. Walking by faith means trusting and having the assurance that God will deliver His promises – God will give us grace to press on until the second coming of Christ. Living in hope means believing that when Christ comes again, we will be glorified and be brought back to our Heavenly home. We know that our Lord is holy and pure. God and sin can never dwell together. Therefore, while waiting for Christ to come again, we should strive to lead holy and acceptable lives by using God’s word as the principles of our lives and fleeing from sin and temptation (2 Peter 2:11), thus growing in grace and holiness. In addition, the Bible teaches “…Be ye holy; for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:16 and Leviticus 11:44) This is what the Lord commands us to do. As regenerated children of God, we ought to “put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind;” (Ephesians 4:22-23). Also, we will be inclined to do so (2 Peter 1:10).

In Psalm 119:33 “Teach me, O Lord, the ways of thy status; and I shall keep in unto the end.” David is certain that when God teaches him His   commandments,   God   will   also give David grace and strength to keep them. Likewise, whether in times of prosperity or in times of tribulation, God will always give us grace to keep His statues. By God’s infinite grace, we are able to persevere!

Applications

After knowing the doctrine of Perseverance/Preservation of the Saints, how should we apply it in our lives? We know that we are preserved by God’s grace and we are only able to persevere by God’s grace too. Every day we are battling with sin. In Matthew 26:41 “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit is indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” We need to constantly look to God in prayer, asking Him for grace to help us say no to sin. Thus, when we pray according to God’s word and seek to do His will (Luke 11:9, Jeremiah 33:3), God delivers us and we see His power and glory and His love for us. This strengthens our faith as we trust on Him more. However, this takes time. We have to continuously study God’s Word to seek His will and pray without ceasing. And God according to His sovereign plan will answer us. It is through prayer that God helps us. Therefore, prayer is apt in a Christian’s life.

Secondly,   by   listening   and   reading the word of God, God preserves His people. In 2 Timothy 3:16-17 “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” God’s exhortations, admonitions, encouragements, are all used to keep us from straying. Thus, reading of God’s word is important. In addition, listening to the preaching of God’s word during worship services or through audio sermons is equally important. In John 10:27-28 “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” Therefore the more we should be diligent in doing daily devotions and keeping the Sabbath day holy.

Relation to the other four points

God preserves the elect because He, by His sovereign will, without any condition chose them (The Doctrine of Unconditional Election). God preserves those whom He has chosen because Christ has died for them (The Doctrine of Limited atonement). God preserves them by giving them an efficacious and irresistible grace so that nothing at all can separate them from having eternal salvation (The doctrine of Irresistible grace). They need this grace because without it, they are unable to do any good at all, much less able to obtain everlasting life because they are totally depraved (The Doctrine of Total Depravity). May we guard this truth dearly in our hearts.

Conclusion

Press on! We have this peace and comfort which assures us that by God’s grace, He will preserve us and we will be able to persevere in whatever circumstances we face (Philippians 4:7). Psalm 18:49 “Therefore will I give thanks unto thee, O LORD, among the heathen, and sing praises unto thy name.” All praise and glory go to our one and only sovereign Lord! Soli Deo Gloria!

Written by: Lim Tze Yan | Issue 7

Irresistible Grace

Does our salvation depend on god’s grace or on the sinner’s free will? Can god’s will to save His elect be made void eventually? Can it happen that god’s grace can actually be resisted?

These are essential questions, and in this article we shall try to explore these issues.

The doctrine of Irresistible Grace (or efficacious grace) is the fourth point of the Reformed faith which teaches that the saving grace of God cannot be resisted. When God in eternity elects a man, that man is saved. And nothing, not even the devil, can prevent his salvation. However, it is important to note that the crux of the issue is when we say that God’s grace is irresistible, we are also acknowledging that God is also indeed irresistible. God is sovereign, and in essence, His will cannot be made void. “He doeth according to His will in the army of heaven, and none can stay his hand.” (Daniel 4:35)

Saved by grace alone

When a sinner is being saved, God calls him first through the preaching of the gospel which is an external calling. However, for the sinner to be saved, there needs to be an internal call where through the Holy Spirit, regeneration happens in the innermost recesses of the man. God opens and softens his heart and changes him from a dead, unbelieving sinner to a living and believing adopted child of God. It is only the power of grace that can cause this radical change in him.

Salvation is by grace alone! There is no denying this as the Scriptures clearly teach this. In Ephesians 2:8, the apostle Paul teaches,   “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.” This means that our works make no contribution whatsoever to our salvation. Even what we consider as our best works do not merit our salvation because we are already dead in sin and nothing we do can save ourselves. “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6) Moreover, in Titus 3:5, Paul declares, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” Thus, without a doubt, we can see that the grace of God is indeed the force and energy that converts the sinner’s heart and makes it willing to repent and believe in the Saviour.

An Irresistible Grace

The grace that enters our soul and converts our stubborn will cannot be resisted. There is nothing that can stop God’s will and plan to save a sinner. Because God is an irresistible and sovereign God, thus His saving grace is irresistible and sovereign too. Even the most obstinate sinner cannot resist this grace. When God chooses to give saving grace to a sinner, it is by His almighty power that it will triumph in the heart of the sinner. He will definitely be saved. Moreover, when grace is given by God to the sinner, it is already effective before man can act. Hence, man cannot even act to resist it. This grace is so effective that it will work faith in the sinner to draw the sinner to Christ. There are many verses in the scripture which teach the doctrine of Irresistible Grace. God does not merely try to save sinners, depending on how they respond; no, He saves sinners sovereignly, efficaciously and irresistibly.

John 6:37 “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” In this text, the “shall come” shows indication that the sinner will definitely come to Christ when God has chosen him. This shows that when God has chosen him, he cannot resist God’s will and the power of God is an irresistible force.

Romans 8:29-30 “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. 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 text shows that once a sinner has been elected in God’s eternal counsel, he will surely proceed to being justified and glorified. Nothing can stand in the way of the sinner obtaining salvation and the final glorification of those being called.

There is no doubt that this doctrine of Irresistible Grace is the teaching of the Scriptures. To deny this doctrine is akin to calling our God an ineffective, weak and powerless God.

Practical Importance

For reformed Christians like us, it is important that we wholeheartedly believe in this doctrine. Our assurance of salvation depends on the truth of Irresistible Grace. If indeed we can resist and lose grace, how can we be assured that our salvation is certain? We would then be living in constant doubt and fear if we will ever be saved. The thought of it is indeed frightening and depressing!

In addition, our belief in Irresistible Grace parallels our confession that salvation is by grace alone, and not by a mixture of works and grace. We know the latter is the false doctrine and hence we need to hold tightly onto this doctrine of Irresistible Grace.

Another point we can note is that by believing in Irresistible Grace, we can then pray for the conversion and repentance of ourselves and our loved ones. If grace is not irresistible, we do not have the comfort of knowing that a backsliding Christian may one day turn back to God. Our prayers for his conversion and repentance would then be in vain because grace can be resisted and that makes God powerless to do anything. Hence, through the doctrine of Irresistible Grace, we can have the blessed assurance that wayward or straying members of the church can indeed come back to God, through His grace.

Relation to the other points of TULIP

Total depravity teaches that man is totally dead in sin and because of this, we are unworthy of salvation. Therefore, our salvation must be by grace alone. Since man has no good in him, and no ability to do good, this grace must be irresistible.

Unconditional election is the basis for Irresistible Grace. Since election does not occur due to any merit of ours, therefore, our salvation is not by our works. This works parallel to Irresistible Grace.

The teaching of Irresistible Grace preserves the truth of limited atonement. If free will and resistible grace holds true, then Christ would have died in vain. Although Christ died for the man and wants to save him, He cannot because the grace was resisted and the sinner is unwilling to be converted.

Irresistible Grace also guarantees the preservation of saints. Since we cannot resist grace, we also cannot prevent God from ensuring that we are saved till the very end. Those who are brought to salvation by the Irresistible Grace of God are by the power of that same grace preserved in salvation.

Written by: Jemima Lee

Free Willism: Another Gospel

There is one gospel.

This gospel is the message of salvation in Jesus Christ by grace alone. “Grace alone” means that God saves sinners. God saves sinners according   to His own attitude of favour (grace) toward those sinners whom He saves. God saves sinners by His own quickening power (grace) in the hearts of those whom He wills to save. “Grace alone” means that grace is without supplement, condition, or assistance.

“Grace alone” means that the salvation   of   sinners   does   not depend on, is not due to, and is not accomplished by the worth, will, or work of those sinners. Not at all! Not any aspect of salvation! “Grace alone” means that man does not save himself.

This is why the gospel is good news. This is why the gospel exalts God. This is also why the gospel is offensive to men.

Offended by grace – free, sovereign, particular, almighty grace –   men change God’s gospel, creating other gospels more to their liking. There are many of them. All have one thing in common: they are gospels of man.

One such gospel is free-willism. This is the message that God’s salvation of the sinner depends upon the activity of the sinner’s will. The sinner’s will is free, that is, it is able to choose for God as well as against Him. By the free, sovereign activity of his will, the sinner makes God’s willingness (grace) to save him effectual.

By this act of his will, the sinner allows God’s quickening power (grace) to have its way with him. The salvation proclaimed by the gospel of free- willism is man’s salvation of himself by choosing God, opening up his heart to let Jesus in, making a decision for Christ, accepting the offer made well-meaningly to all, and fulfilling the prerequisite for regeneration and conversion.

This gospel is wildly popular.

But it is “another” gospel. It is “another gospel” precisely   in the sense in which the apostle speaks of “another gospel” in Galatians 1:6-9. It is a gospel that adds a work of man to the work of God in Jesus Christ. It is a message that makes the grace of God dependent upon some act of man. It is a message that calls the sinner to cooperate with God in Christ. It is a message that rejects “grace alone” for “grace and” (or, “grace but”). The other gospel in the Galatian churches was “grace and human circumcision” Free-willism is the gospel of “grace and human will.”

As “another gospel,” free-willism is not an acceptable, though somewhat deficient, version of the gospel, but a perversion of the one gospel. It is not an encouraging, though undeveloped, beginning of the gospel, out of which the full gospel can be expected to grow, but an enemy of the one gospel that nurses a murderous hatred toward the one gospel and those who confess it.

Free-willism is no gospel. It is not the good news that the gracious God conceived in eternity and revealed in time in Jesus Christ. It is not the faith of the Bible. Free-willism sets forth another way of salvation than the way of faith in Christ: the decision decision for Christ by the dead sinner.

It proclaims   another saviour than Jesus Christ:   the   willing sinner. It worships another god than the God of the one gospel: a nice, well- intentioned, loving, helpless, bumbling deity, who is perfectly, willing to share the glory of salvation with every Tom, Dick, and Harry.

Free-willism denies the cross.   The cross redeemed no one. The cross accomplished nothing.   The cross was not substitutionary satisfaction of the justice of God regarding those for whom Christ died. Many for whom Christ died perish in hell. Those who are saved by the cross are saved, not because of their decision for Christ, their acceptance of the well-meant offer, their act of believing.

This condemnation of free-willism is not the private opinion of the author of this article. Much less is it the eccentric stand of the denomination of churches in which he is a minister.

That free-willism is another gospel, which is no gospel, is the official confession, and urgent testimony, of the Reformed churches in the world. They have voiced   their confession, once for all time, in the Canons of Dordt. Free-willism, which at that time took form in the heresy of Arminianism, the Reformed churches have damned as “the Pelagian error out of hell.” Many Reformed   churches require all their officebearers to subscribe this creed. Subscription explicitly expresses that the one subscribing agrees with Dordt’s condemnation of free-willism. It binds the subscriber “to refute and contradict” this false teaching and “to exert (himself) in keeping the Church free from such errors.”

Presbyterians who affirm commitment to the system of doctrine set down in the Westminster Standards likewise express condemnation of free-willism as another gospel. For the system of doctrine set down in the confession and catechisms of Westminster is the gospel of salvation by grace alone, to which free-willism is diametrically opposite. God judges free-willism as another gospel in His inspired, clear, and   authoritative Word. He does this in every passage that teaches salvation by His own gracious will and work. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that (faith) not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:8, 9).

God exposes free-willism by name as one of the leading forms of the false gospel that always threatens to supplant the one gospel: “So then it (salvation) is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy” (Rom. 9:16). Salvation is not of man’s will. Man’s will and willing have nothing to do with the saving of elect sinners. They are excluded as much as is man’s running, or working. But the teaching that salvation is at least partly’ a matter of man’s will is as much an enemy of the gospel of salvation by God’s mercy alone as is the teaching that   man’s own works cooperate in salvation. The one gospel is the message that salvation is alone of God who shows mercy.

Against the one gospel stand two other gospels, which are no gospels: salvation by man’s willing, and salvation   by man’s working. Both agree that man saves himself, at least in part.

To teach that salvation depends on, or is due to, or is made effectual by man’s choosing Christ, or opening his heart   to let Christ come   in, or accepting an offer made well- meaninly to all, or fulfilling a condition in order then to be born against and converted is the lie. It is not merely a lie. It is the lie. In comparison with this gross blasphemy, this monstrous robbery of God of His glory in the work of salvation, women in church office is a small sin. Free-willism is a real threat today to the true churches of Christ. Free-willism has   always been the heart of the false church that is Rome. Luther taught us this in his On the Bondage of the Will. Now free-willism has infiltrated and corrupted much of Protestantism. Many of the self-styled “evangelical” churches and preachers are free- willist.   These   are   the   churches and churchmen represented by the magazine Christianity Today. These are the preachers who dominate religious radio and television. This is the reason why Billy Graham and his associates cooperate with the Roman Catholic clergy in their “evangelical” endeavours. This is the reason why prominent Protestant “evangelicals” are   defecting   to   Rome.   This is the reason for the recent union of “evangelicals”‘ and Roman Catholics. The “evangelicals” have the same gospel that Rome has: man   saves man by his free-will.

The threat is graver. There are toleration of, compromise with, and even approval of free-willism within the Presbyterian and Reformed churches. Men who profess Calvinism (a mere identifying label of the gospel that God saves men-elect men-by sovereign grace alone) and who are esteemed as Calvinists speak well of, and defend, free-willism as gospel. Arminian free- willism is not the best and highest form of the gospel. It definitely leaves something to be desired. It could be wished that it would shake off certain of its weaknesses. But it is, for .a11 this, gospel. It is the one gospel. James I. Packer, who, though not ecclesiastically   Presbyterian or Reformed himself, nevertheless has tremendous influence on Presbyterian and Reformed churches and Christians, compromises with Wesleyian free-willism in an article that is bearing bitter fruit in Reformed circles. Packer is intent on defending the gospel preached by John Wesley- Wesley, who blasphemed God’s eternal predestination (source and foundation of the gospel of grace) as few enemies of grace have ever done.

Packer speaks of “evangelical Arminianism.” He claims that “Wesley’s teaching included so much Reformation truth.” Packer diagnoses Arminianism, that is, the gospel of free-willism, as “an impoverishing reaction from it (Reformation teaching), involving a partial denial of the biblical faith in the God of all grace. The lapse is less serious in some cases …” “Calvinists should therefore approach professed Arminians as brother evangelicals trapped in weakening theological mistakes, and seek to help them to a better mind” (“Arminianisms,” in The Manifold Grace of God, Puritan and Reformed Studies Conference, 1968).

Free-willism is not “another gospel.” The condemnation of Dordt does not apply to this brand of free-willism. The Presbyterian theologian John M. Frame tolerates, if he does not approve, free-willism in his recent work on C. Van Til: There is a great gulf between Christianity and unbelief…. Is there also a “great gulf” between Reformed Christians and non-Reformed Christians . . . ? Arminianism . . . (is) erroneous in some measure, I would say, but (it has) much in common with the Reformed faith at the deepest level. Thus, we should not criticize (it) in the same terms that we use to criticize unbelief…. I am confident that Reformed believers are, in general, of one heart with their Arminian brothers and sisters (Cornelius Van Til, P&R, 1995, pp.   211,212). Free-willism is not “another gospel.” Dordt was wrong in its condemnation of free- willism.

The acceptance of free-willism within the nominally Reformed   churches is evident from the murderous opposition on the part of these churches to churches and ministers that condemn free-willism as soul- destroying, God-dishonouring heresy. The “Conclusion” of the Canons of Dordt indicates the enraged slander of the Reformed churches by the free- willists at the time of the synod of Dordt. Today, all these slanders are wrapped up in one epithet, and hurled at the churches that are faithful to Dordt: “hyper-calvinist!”

There are ministers who are being killed all the day long by nominal Calvinists for no other offense than that they preach the gospel of grace in such a way that they expose and condemn free-willism as the lie.

As might be expected from the expressions of tolerance for free- willism and from the rage at those who dare to condemn free-willism, the error itself now corrupts the confession and preaching of many Presbyterian and Reformed churches. Wherever the doctrine of a love of God in the gospel for all me and a desire of God in the preaching of the gospel   to save all men is accepted and defended, there free-willism has established its stronghold. In time, the entire system of the doctrine of salvation by sovereign grace alone will be systematically destroyed.

And the end will be sheer theological modernism.

In his Crossed Fingers, reviewed in this issue of the Standard Bearer, Gary North demonstrates that the apostasy of the Northern Presbyterian Church began   with the   toleration of Arminianism. The history of the Christian Reformed Church provides the same terrible lesson. Herman Bavinck gave the warning long ago when he wrote, “Remonstrantism (Arminianism) paved the way for rationalism” (The Doctrine of God, Eerdmans, 1951, p 366). Reformed churches must preach and teach salvation by sovereign grace alone. As they do, they must condemn free- willism.

Reformed Christians must confess salvation by sovereign grace alone. As they do, they must condemn free- willism.

This stand will preserve us, as Reformed churches and as Reformed Christians, in the dangerous times in which we live and are called to glorify God by a sound confession and an obedient walk. It will keep us as churches out of ungodly, destructive ecumenical alliances. We have no unity with free-willist Rome.

We have no unity with free-willist “evangelical” Protestantism. We have no unity with compromising Reformed and Presbyterian churches.

It will keep the Reformed Christian out of such a movement as Promise Keepers.   The Reformed   Christian may not subject himself to free- willist preaching. He may not worship with those who claim to have saved themselves by their free will. He may not pretend spiritual oneness with those who hold “another gospel.” He may not promise to help break down the denominational barriers between Calvinist and Arminian churches. God forbid!

It will keep the Reformed Christian out of interdenominational Bible studies. How can a Reformed Christian tolerate study of the Word of God that professes to be neutral and non-committal regarding the doctrinal difference between Calvinism and Arminianism, that is, between the one gospel and “another gospel”? How can a Reformed Christian participate in a Bible study that gives equal time to free-willism and sovereign grace? How can a Reformed Christian be involved in a Bible study that does not defend salvation by grace alone and condemn free-willism?

The good and right stand for grace and against free-will must govern our church membership, our Iively church membership.

Where is sovereign grace faithfully and uncompromisingly preached and defended, with an accompanying condemnation of free-will?

There, and nowhere else, every child of God belongs, come what may.

There, and nowhere else, I belong, with my family, come what may.

For there, and nowhere else, is the one gospel.

Written by: Prof. David Engelsma | Issue 7

Limited Atonement

The doctrine of Limited Atonement is the third of the Five Points of Calvinism, and is represented by the letter L in the acronym TULIP.

What is the implication of the word limited? The word limited implies that Christ died for only a limited number of people. John 17:9 says, “I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them whom thou hast given me; for they are thine.” This clearly shows that Christ’s atonement is for His elect only, and He prays for them continually. This is not because His power is limited, but because it was God’s sovereign will that it be so. The only thing limited is the number of people for whom Christ died.

What does the word atonement mean? The word atonement means “a payment for.” It suggests “making one out of that which has been divided.” Christ paid for His people’s sins on the cross, and this payment resulted in His people becoming   at one with God, while previously they were separated from Him by sin. The word atonement also implies that Christ’s death actually saves, instead of merely making salvation     an available option. Matthew 1:21, “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people   from their sins.” Christ shall save His people from their sins.

So, what does limited atonement mean? Limited atonement means that Christ died only for His elect, and His death was totally efficacious for them, so they are definitely, 100% saved. John 6:37-39 says, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.” And John 10:14-15, “I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.” Christ loses none of His sheep, for whom He lays down His life. He accomplished the Father’s will. That is, He saved every single one of those whom God had given to Him, and these who are Christ’s shall never be separated from His love (Romans 8:38-39), and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of His hand, but they will follow Christ and obey His voice  (John 10:27-28). Whereas those who are not among Christ’s elect will not believe (John 10:26), and thus will never be saved.

Limited atonement shows the sovereignty of God in that those, and only those, whom God elects, will be saved, and others whom God   has   sovereignly   reprobated, will be condemned to everlasting damnation. This shows that God, and God alone, is in control of all things. Total depravity is the reason why the atonement of Christ for His people must be efficacious for them; because total depravity teaches that man has no ability in himself to accept Christ (Romans 3:9-12; Romans 5:12; John 6:44,65), so we need the atonement of Christ as our only means of salvation. Those who put their trust in Christ only do so because God graciously grants them the gift of faith. Unconditional election teaches that man’s faith is not a condition to his salvation, but that salvation is all of grace (Ephesians 2:8), and God elects those who will be saved. Thus, atonement is limited due to God’s sovereign election. Limited atonement can only happen through irresistible grace, the unmerited favor of God upon those whom He will. The atonement of Christ for His people can never expire, and they will never fall away, but God will preserve them to the end (Psalm 37:28).

In summary, the doctrine of limited atonement teaches   four   things: First, that Christ’s death is the only atonement for sin (Colossians 1:14, John 14:6, Romans 5:8-10); second, that all those for whom Christ died are really and completely saved, and their salvation is guaranteed (John 3:16b); third, that Christ died for only a particular number of people (Ephesians 1:5,11, Titus 2:14, Romans 11:5); and last, these people are those whom God has ordained in eternity to be His people (Ephesians 1:4).

Limited atonement gives believers full assurance of their salvation, and in this truth, we see the absolute sovereignty of God over all.

Written by: Koh Ming Hui | Issue 7

Unconditional Election

The Five Points of Calvinism are a summary of the difference between Calvinism and Armenianism, as a point-by-point response to the five points of the Armenian Remonstrance. Identified by namely, Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace and the Perseverance of the Saints, TULIP, in short, is the doctrine that the Covenant Keepers (CK) was studying over the past year.

As a start, the Five Points of Calvinism, commonly known as TULIP, were set forth by the Synod of Dort back in the years 1618-1619. These points came as a rejection to the controversial Armenian objections raised by Dutch churches to the Belgic Confession which were documented in The Remonstrance of 1610. As a result, the Canons of Dort was published, being the judgment of the National Synod, containing the five essential points that are crucial to the Reformed doctrine till today.

One of the points, Unconditional Election, will be what this article aims to shed some light on, sharing briefly what CK has learnt with respect to this topic and providing some insight to the reader. As many are now discarding this doctrine and embracing falsehood, hopefully through this article, the reader might be spurred on to research more into Unconditional Election and the Reformed faith, and embrace the truth which God has inscribed in the Scriptures.

The Meaning of Unconditional Election

So, what is Unconditional Election? What seems like a very complicated doctrine can be easily broken down into its two key words, “Unconditional” and “Election”. Election is basically the eternal choice by God of certain definite individuals in Jesus Christ unto salvation. Unconditional then means that this election took place without any need for man to fulfil any conditions to inherit that salvation. This means that man by no means have to do any good works to enable him to be saved. The Reformed doctrine is one that says that all the election in itself has nothing to do with man, but is only reliant on the sovereignty and will of God.

With that comes great scepticism that the doctrine is biblical. You might ask, If God is love, why does he save some and hate others without any criteria? How on earth can Unconditional Election be a teaching of scripture? With that, here are some Bible verses that do support the judgement concluded by the Synod of Dort against the followers of Jacobus Arminius.

Ephesians 1:11. “In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.” Ephesians 2:8. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.”

These verses expound on the truth of the Scriptures that God indeed does choose His people through predestination. This means that He determined, before the foundation of the world, who would be His elect and be saved unto eternal salvation. This ordination is definitely not one that man chooses, but rather a gift of God.

Romans 9:15-16. “For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.”

With this Unconditional Election comes reprobation which is the display of God’s justice. The reprobate are due for destruction, one example being Esau as taught by Apostle Paul in Romans 9:11-13. “For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth; it was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.” Reprobation is not a denial of a loving God, but rather it displays the justice required by God’s holiness and His intolerance of any sin. There is no compromise to His righteousness and sovereignty, resulting in the coexistence of reprobation and man’s responsibility for his own sin.

Difficult Passages

Some passages provide certain ambiguity and at first glance might not seem to support the Reformed stance:

Romans 8:28-30. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. 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 seems to support the Armenian stance that God has a crystal ball which he uses to see into the future of who will accept Him and believe in Him. However, the Bible cannot possibly be contradictory by having differing doctrines. At a second look, we can then interpret “foreknow” to be one of love like how “Adam knew Eve” in Genesis 4:1. This love must precede predestination as seen in Ephesians 1:3-5 where God, “in love, having predestinated us (His elect) unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself (God), according to the good pleasure of His will.” Thus with accurate interpretation, we see that the Reformed faith is the true reading of the Word of God.

Denials – Free Will

Along with these difficult passages come denials that teach falsehood with regards to doctrine. One such denial is Freewill which teaches that ordinary man, man outside of and apart from the grace of God, is able to choose Jesus Christ and salvation. Those that believe in this, namely the Pelagians and Arminians are compelled to reject predestination. According to those who hold to this doctrine of free will, the decisive choice for salvation is not of God but of man. Consequentially, Election becomes conditional and apparently God in eternity simply looks down the corridors of history, sees who will choose Him and who will not, elects those who do and rejects the rest. Predestination is reduced to mere prescience. God chooses those who choose Him.

The folly of this teaching ought to be apparent. If salvation depended on man’s choice, no man would be saved: “There is none   righteous, no, not one. There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one” (Rom. 3:10-12). The teaching of the free will not only denies the total depravity of fallen man, but it is also an assault on God’s sovereign predestination. In the clearest possible language Jesus declares in John 15:16, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you and ordained you…”

Other denials include the doctrines of common grace and the free offer of the gospel that also contradict the Bible and the teaching of the Reformed faith. As Reformed Christians, we must always be on guard against any heresies and false teaching that might infiltrate the church.

Practical Application

Knowing the truth is not enough. Knowing how to apply it to one’s life is equally important. Only through application can we then see a change in one’s spiritual health, everything owing to God’s sovereignty. The doctrine     of   predestination   and the consistent maintaining of this doctrine are of the greatest practical importance for the church. It is not true, as the enemies allege, that this doctrine is cold, lifeless, and of no practical value. For a doctrine that is essential to the gospel, Unconditional Election does have learning points.

The faithful confession of the doctrine of predestination is vital for the life of the   antithesis to which every child of God is called. Denial of predestination, as history   shows, inevitably leads to a breakdown of the antithesis. Antithesis means the separation between the church and the world, and the spiritually separate life the Christian is called to live over and against the world. We are to be in the world but not of the world.

The practical implication of the doctrine   of predestination forbids the church to have common cause with the world. To use the words of the prophet to King Jehoshaphat, who had sinfully made an alliance with wicked Ahab, “Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the Lord?” (II Chron. 19:2) Whether it is being unequally yoked or having a common cause with unbelievers, Christians should definitely shun away and not partake of what the ungodly do.

With this implication, hopefully this article   has   impressed upon   the reader the truths of the doctrine of Unconditional Election, that one might live an antithetical life, giving all glory to God alone.

Written by: Elias Tan | Issue 7

Total Depravity

Total depravity, or total inability, describes man’s absolutely sinful and corrupted fallen state as a result of original sin. When Adam, the representative head of the whole human race fell into sin, the entire human race fell too. This is clearly shown in Romans 5:12, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” Hence, eve- ry single man, head for head is totally depraved. Since the fall, every single person, even a newborn baby, is depraved as he is born in sin. This is seen in Psalm 51:5 which says, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” This implies that sin is deeply embedded into man’s nature. He is totally ruined and willingly turns to evil from the very day that he was born.

Because man is born into sin, every part of him is totally depraved. Man is wicked, corrupt, perverse and opposed to God in his nature. He is inclined to serve his own will and desires and to reject the rule of God, as proven in Genesis 6:5 “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” He is also unable to serve and love God wholly with all his heart, mind and strength. Man rests under the curse of sin and is wholly incapable of loving God or to do anything which merits salvation. Even the good which man may intend to do have false motives. This is seen in Romans 3:10-12 “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.”

This doctrine of total depravity, however, is denied by most Christians today and avoided by many as it is not seen as a “friendly” doctrine. Many of them cannot accept that they are totally depraved such that they are unable to do any good by themselves. They assert that there is a difference between total depravity and absolute depravity. Their understanding is that man is totally depraved, but not absolutely depraved. They falsely claim that man, although sinful, is still able to do some good, such as to do good works, or to choose God. This is absolutely wrong as since the fall, man is completely unable to do any good. Psalm 14:1-3, The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good. The Lord looked down from heaven upon the  children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their belief further emphasizes their wickedness, as the nature of fallen man is such that he readily listens to any theory which makes him even partly independent of God as he wishes to be the master of his fate and the captain of his soul. This is seen in many other beliefs too.

Total depravity also proves to man that all his claims of goodness are unfounded, and it shows him that his only hope of a change in life lies in the sovereign and divine grace of the Almighty God. The old man is constantly opposed towards God. It is only the power of the Holy Spirit, which works in man’s cold and hardened heart, which allows him to be saved.

This alone proves the eternal and infinite love of God when he sent his only begotten son Jesus Christ to die on the cross so as to provide redemption for His people. John 3:3, Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

From this, we are to learn that there is no room for pride. We owe everything that we have to God. We ought to be thankful for and appreciate God’s unconditional   grace,   and     further rely on Him and use the means of grace that He has given us, such as the preaching of His Word, family devotions, prayer and youth group activities so that we can grow more in Him. Furthermore, we are not to look down on others. By comparing ourselves to others and deeming ourselves better, we are full of pride, and as we are warned in Proverbs 16:18, pride goeth before destruction. In fact, we have absolutely nothing to be proud of, as the scriptures clearly says that we are all equally depraved, dead, and wicked, and we have all gone astray.

Only through understanding our depravity, are we able to comprehend how great the measure of God’s love is for us when he unconditionally elects us,   wretched   sinners,   and saves us from eternal damnation in hell even though we are such unworthy creatures who continue to sin against Him time and again. Our lost, ruined and helpless state must be constantly set before us so that we can comprehend our depravity and thank God for the gift of salvation that He has bestowed on us.

Written by: Koh Hui Qi | Issue 7