Afraid of the Gospel (7)
Reformed Free Publishing Association
This article was written by Rev. John Heys in the December 1, 1953 issue of the Standard Bearer.
Christ or conditions.
That is the issue! Either Christ and his work is the prerequisite for my entrance into the kingdom of heaven or else my act of converting myself is the prerequisite. Either Christ and his atonement is the basis for my salvation or else I am saved on the condition of faith, and perhaps on the condition of a few other things demanded of me.
Christ and conditions?
You prefer to say that? You say, Christ is the basis for my salvation and for my entering into the kingdom of God, but once in that kingdom and once receiving salvation there are conditions to my conscious enjoyment? Then you are still wrong, for then you still put a condition where Christ ought to be and expect the conscious enjoyment of your salvation from that fulfilled condition instead of from Christ. It is still, though in a more limited sphere, conditions instead of Christ. It is still with you as though you have to choose between Christ or conditions. And you choose conditions!
Wherever you retain conditions in your theology, you exclude Christ. For Christ has not prepared a conditional but an unconditional salvation. Of course, our righteousness must exceed that of the Scribes and of the Pharisees, if we are to enter the kingdom of heaven. But there again you see that it is Christ and not conditions. That righteousness which exceeds that of the Scribes and Pharisees is Christ. We are told in 1 Cor. 1:30 that Christ is “made unto us wisdom, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” And again in 2 Cor. 5:21 we are told that we are “made the righteousness of God in him.” Therefore my righteousness before God upon which my salvation is based and which is the prerequisite for my entering the kingdom is not something I have fulfilled, is not something that is a condition placed before me, but is the work and the righteousness of Christ.
If I have to do something before I can enjoy the consciousness of my salvation, then I tremble with fear, and I have no joy or certainty of salvation. Conditional theology exactly takes all my joy away, for it takes Christ away. And he is my righteousness which exceeds that of the Scribes and Pharisees. When I am afraid of the terrible wrath of God, then I can only find one place to hide and where I can breathe freely and where I can find peace. And that is behind Christ. He must be before me, must be between me and God. And I must be in him and know that God judges me in him. But if I have to hide behind a work of mine that God requires of me, if I have to believe that there is a condition that I must fulfill, I will never be conscious of any salvation.
And, yet, the amazing thing is that people have learned to like exactly such a philosophy. And a philosophy it is, for a scriptural doctrine it is not. As we wrote last time, some people have learned to enjoy Christless sermons. With them it is indeed: Christ or conditions, and they choose conditions. They want you to be a methodistic exhorter who lays out a long line of requirements which you must fulfill. And the moment that you begin to proclaim that Christ fulfilled all these and that, as the apostle Paul says, it is not we who do these things when we walk in sanctification but the grace of God in us, you have actually spoiled the sermon for them. The minute you bring in election and Christ as the righteous one who fulfilled all for his elect, you spoil the whole thing for them. Why? Because you have spoiled the condition. You have taken away conditional theology and it makes them so sad to think of parting with such a man-exalting theory.
We would like to give you a clear example of this Christless preaching and of the craving for the methodistic tactics that have arisen among those who have cast away Protestant Reformed truth and who are afraid of full and free salvation in Christ alone.
There has been in circulation for the last year or more a document that is composed of quotations from the works of the Rev. Hoeksema, the Rev. Ophoff, and the Rev. Vos. The one of the Rev. Vos we have in mind at this time. We will quote it just as far as the author of this document quoted it. It is from a meditation upon the text in Matthew 7:21, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” A text, by the way, which you can nicely make a conditional text, if you want to rob it of Christ, just because the text does not mention him by name. And if you are going to follow the advice of the Rev. De Wolf you will have to do that, because he warns you not to bring election into any text, unless it is literally there. So here, the name of Christ is not at all in the last part of this text which declares what is necessary for us to enter the kingdom. And so, make it a Christless sermon and you will have your conditional preaching. And you will have said: conditions NOT Christ. But let us give you the quotation.
“Therefore birth in the line of the covenant, to have God-fearing parents, church attendance, catechism teaching, confessing the name of God, partaking of Christ’s supper—all these things are nothing but terrible condemnations if they are all you possess. Then you surely will not enter the blessed kingdom of heaven.
“What then is the entrance?
“Doing the will of God constitutes the entrance according to the text. And we realize that this answer has a Pelagian sound, as though after all man by his own work of obedience could enter the kingdom of heaven. And I would make answer that I do not care how much it sounds like Pelagianism, that obedience to the will of God is the only door heaven possesses. There is no other entrance. And the door to hell is the door of disobedience to God’s will. That is the truth which you will find on every page of the Bible.”
So much is quoted of the writings of the Rev. Vos. And that is exactly as much as those who are addicted to conditional theology want. And what follows in the meditation of the Rev. Vos would spoil it all for them. As long as you continue in the vein of those lines of the Rev. Vos, you are, in their opinion coming with the pedagogical approach which is necessary lest man become careless and profane. And consequently the lines which follow and were left unquoted and wherein the Rev. Vos draws very sharply the Protestant Reformed lines of the truth and wherein Christ is brought forth in all his beauty and glory, these lines put the lie to the accusation that the Rev. Vos also preached conditions. Not even when quoted out of context does he in these lines teach conditions. Indeed, he does show us in these lines a prerequisite for entering the kingdom, but that prerequisite is not the prerequisite of the Rev. De Wolf, namely, our act of conversion and our act of doing the will of the Father, it is a prerequisite which God himself fulfills in the person of his Son. In this meditation the Rev. Vos as he stands before the question: Christ or conditions, says, by all means give me Christ. Here is the rest of his article, and please note the shades of 1924! The very first sentence shows why the quotation was not completed.
“But let us explain.
“We find the whole matter beautifully stated in Psalm 24:3–6. There we read: “Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand at his holy place? He that hath clean hands and a pure heart who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity nor sworn deceitfully.”
“There is the answer, and you have noticed that also there we have the matter of entrance into the kingdom, that is, the holy hill of Zion.
“The only answer is purest obedience, from the love of God.
“But then I hear you make answer and say: Who can then be saved: For we have very filthy hands; our hearts are cesspools of unholiness; continually I lift up my soul unto vanity; and as for the truth in the inward parts: all men are liars and I am one of them! And we would say: that is true of all natural men. But there is one man among men who is not so. He fulfills the requirements of the heavenly entrance to the very last details. And that man is the God-man, the Immanuel. It is Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
“And here is the blessedness of the gospel: He ascends the holy hill of Zion in purest obedience substitutionally for you and me. For all the elect of God. He pays the awful price for all your and my disobedience and that is the story of his blood. That is shed for me, even me!”
The underscoring is ours. That is beautiful Protestant Reformed truth. It is preaching Christ and not conditions. And note how election is not hushed but becomes the very core and heart of the possibility for us to enter that kingdom thru Christ’s blood and obedience. In the next paragraph the Rev. Vos also states that “The cross of Christ is the entrance.” He also goes on to show that “the Holy Spirit regenerates us so that his life of perfect obedience enters us and recreates us unto new creatures.” He preaches no passive doctrine of the believers being stocks and blocks. It is the vibrant truth of Christ, that we are in Christ as living members, living out of him and to his glory. It is the message of Christ in us and not of conditions set before us.
Let not those addicted to conditional theology therefore deceive themselves into thinking that they have a God-given calling to do missionary work in the Protestant Reformed Churches. They have not! They cannot have such a calling. God calls the church to do missionary work with the gospel, not with heretical statements. He commands the church to come with Christ and not with a theory that conveniently sets him on the shelf and puts conditions where he belongs. And, by the way, their claim that they do have such a calling is very revealing. It is characteristic of their whole movement’s change of tactics whenever some new emergency arises. For to claim that they have such a God-given calling is an admission on their part of that which formerly they did not want to state, namely, that they do have a different doctrine than that of the Protestant Reformed Churches.