Afraid of the Gospel (5)
Reformed Free Publishing Association
This article was written by Rev. John Heys in the November 1, 1953 issue of the Standard Bearer.
God cannot be mocked.
He may not be mocked; but he cannot be mocked either.
And when one departs from the straight line of the truth, he must come back to the point of departure or else continue still further away from the truth.
That is not only a fundamental principle taught us in the scriptures, it is also the testimony of church history and even of our everyday life.
It makes no difference how little the departure may be, one must come back from it all the way, or else he will go still further in his way of error and of a sinful walk.
And so it is that today things have come to a head; a crisis has been reached in our churches; congregations have split; individuals show by their absence from God’s house on the Sabbath that they have made up their minds to go even farther away from the truth and from the upright walk than they did before.
No longer do they manifest themselves as being afraid of the gospel. They DARE to show you that they despise it, do not want to hear it and go where they may hear that which is more palatable to their tastes. They may, perhaps, tell you that they are sick and tired of always hearing in the preaching that there are no conditions unto salvation and that man has no prerequisites to fulfill before God gives the next installment of salvation. But they then go and sit back with joy and complete satisfaction in the pews of a church that as vehemently or even more vehemently brands as heresy an unconditional promise of God to the elect that he will give them salvation thru faith. They may tell you that they are full to their chins of conditions, but that is not so. Their behavior shows that this is not so. For they run as fast as they can to go where they will be filled even more with conditional theology. After all that theology has something for man, flatters him and does not put him in such a hopeless and helpless light as the truth of an unconditional election to an unconditional promise of an unconditional salvation!
We like to show you, again, from the writings of the Rev. M. Gritters that unless one returns back to the straight line of the truth, he will go farther into error, perhaps farther than he at first intended to go.
We find on page 28 of his book, “The Testimony of Dordt,” this beautiful Reformed statement, which he made when he was not afraid of the gospel,
“Art. 10...This article, with one finger points to the total depravity of those who hear the gospel, and with the other finger points to the sovereign grace of God which gives the elect sinner the grace to obey and receive it. The article asserts this in one clause when it says, that God ‘confers upon them faith and repentance.’ As also everywhere speaking about these things, the Scriptures assert that faith is the gift of God, as, for instance in Phil. 1:29 Scripture saith, ‘For unto you it is GIVEN, in behalf of Christ...to believe on him.’ Through the mysterious working of his grace God bends the will so that it believes, and humbles the heart so that it repents. Showing by the way also, that faith and repentance are the requisites for salvation, and these requisites grace confers upon us. And God confers these gifts, as the articles say upon his people as he has CHOSEN them. God does not confer them upon all people without any distinction, but God confers the gifts of repentance and faith upon the elect. Hence, the gospel preaching itself is never grace, but rather the idea is that, through the preaching of the gospel God confers grace upon the elect. The conferring of these gifts is not general but particular; not left to the free will of man but determined by the counsel of God’s election. The more also that we hear the gospel the more we must be upon our knees, praying God that he, through Christ may confer and increasingly confer upon us the gifts of repentance and faith.”
This passage, surely, shows us that the conditional theology that is maintained so tenaciously today by the Rev. Gritters and his colleagues who have left the Protestant Reformed Churches and who are afraid of the gospel we preach (the only gospel for it preaches a complete salvation that is unconditionally obtained by the elect), that this conditional theology was not at all known by the Rev. Gritters ten years ago. Not even when he writes, as above, that faith and repentance are the requisites for salvation. At that time he embraced the truth of scripture and of the Canons, for he declares that God confers these gifts upon the elect. Note that he does not say that God requires faith and repentance of man in order for him to attain to salvation. With a mind and heart that was pure of the Arminian taint of conditional theology he says that faith and repentance are requisites for salvation. No more! Well, yes he does say more. He says that GOD CONFERS THEM upon his elect. And hence, ten years ago, he writes by implication that God requires these OF HIMSELF, for he confers what he requires. Faith and repentance are required because God has elected us to salvation. Thus GOD’S DECREE OF ELECTION requires faith and repentance IN US but not OF US. God CONFERS these upon us and does not set them before us as prerequisites.
At that time he had never heard of that nonsense of “conditions which WE fulfill by God’s grace.” That is nonsense! For it is meaningless double talk. It says that there are conditions and at the same time there are not conditions. It says that there is something God, apart from his grace, demands of us and that these things are at the same time given us in his grace. Let us explain. Were I to meet a penniless deeply indebted beggar on the street. Were I to say to him, give me ten dollars, right this very moment, and on that condition I will assume all your debts and care for you the rest of your life. I would be talking nonsense to that man. I would be mocking him, ridiculing him, making a fool of him. But note how I would destroy my condition, were I to say, well, my good man, I know that you cannot meet my condition, so I am going to give you the ten dollars to give to me. I demand something of you, and I am going to do that thing myself which I demand of you. Have I not destroyed my condition? Have I not taken it away? Have I not said to that man, my good man there is no condition for you to fulfill. I will assume all your debts and care for you the rest of your life regardless of the fact that you did not first do something for me.
And so to return to these words of the Rev. Gritters, written when he saw things the way we always believed and maintained them as Protestant Reformed Churches. GOD CONFERS THEM UPON THE ELECT. Beautiful truth! But that beautiful truth means exactly that these things are not conditions which man must fulfill. They are however, things which he will and must ENJOY. And they are required not in order that he may be saved, but they are requirements for salvation because THEY ARE PART OF THAT SALVATION! They are not, even by the teachings of the Rev. Gritters, PRErequisites but requisites. He did not dare in those days say that these had to be there BEFORE salvation could be given us. He said that God confers them upon us as part of our salvation, AND AS THE THINGS UNTO WHICH WE ARE ELECTED.
Another very interesting element in this connection is that which we penned down at the beginning of this article. One must return to the straight line of the truth or he will go farther and farther from the straight line. And it is evident that the Rev. Gritters has the LAST YEAR gone farther from his writings in this well-worked-out study of the Canons than he went even TWO YEARS ago.
For when he and his consistory drew up a document—which undoubtedly was chiefly his work which the consistory adopted—to send to the Synod of 1951 in order to seek the rejection of the Declaration of Principles, he did not believe in prerequisites YET. On page 133 of the Acts of Synod of 1951 we read the following from him and his consistory:
“2. Second, in the Declaration (under C) it is declared ‘that faith is no prerequisite or condition unto salvation.’ WHICH IS TRUE OF COURSE, but are we to conclude that this IMPILIED HERESY pertains to Rev. Petter because he used the term ‘conditions?’ Then the Declaration must tell us plainly what it wants so that we may know where we are.” (The capitalization in both instances is ours, J.A.H.)
Indeed, we do by that very Declaration know now where we are and also where those who want conditional theology are. For notice that only two years ago the Rev. Gritters rejected the idea of faith being a prerequisite unto salvation. He says that it is true that faith is not a prerequisite unto salvation and that it is heresy to say that it is a prerequisite unto salvation.
And yet, he and his consistory rush to recognize and take their stand beside a group that maintains exactly that heresy today! When a minister of the gospel is suspended because he says that our act of conversion is such a prerequisite to entering the kingdom, and a goodly number of his elders defend him in that statement, the Rev. Gritters will recognize them as a consistory in the Protestant Reformed Churches. His consistory did not come to Classis West and say that the suspension and deposition was illegal but that the group so illegally deposed should by Classis West—which seemed to think that it was the Synod—be admonished to confess its error of defending such heretical statements. Oh, no! It was ready to take to its bosom that group of men with their heretical statement EVEN THOUGH IT REJECTED SUCH HERESY two years before. It has not one word of admonition, of rebuke, of warning for that faction of what was once the consistory of the First Protestant Reformed Church of Grand Rapids. It wants to maintain man’s responsibility but does not hold that group of men responsible for what it had itself once condemned.
When you are afraid of the gospel, you apparently are not afraid to do illegal things.