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Our Rejection of Conditions (4): Herman Hoeksema, late 1940s and early 1950s (Part 2)

Our Rejection of Conditions (4): Herman Hoeksema, late 1940s and early 1950s (Part 2)

By Martyn McGeown. Previous article in the series: Our Rejection of Conditions (3): Herman Hoeksema, late 1940s and early 1950s (Part 1)

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Herman Hoeksema, as we noted in the last blog post, emphatically rejected the notion that faith is the condition of salvation. Instead, faith is part of the salvation that God graciously gives to his elect people. We quoted a good number of statements from a series in the Standard Bearer, “As To Conditions.” Let us return to that series. Again, the addition of italics for emphasis is mine:

“Our Confessions uniformly present faith not as a condition which we must fulfill, but as a God-given means or instrument empowering the soul to cling to Christ and to receive all His benefits, and that is a radically different conception from that of condition” (Herman Hoeksema, “As to Conditions,” Standard Bearer, vol. 26, issue 2 [Oct 15, 1949] 29).

“If faith is an instrument which God uses and works in the heart of man, it certainly cannot be, at the same time, a condition which man must fulfill in order to obtain salvation, or to enter into the covenant of God” (Herman Hoeksema, “As to Conditions,” Standard Bearer, vol. 26, issue 2 [Oct 15, 1949], 30).

“This is far from saying that faith is a condition unto justification. It only means that the believer is able to receive the grace of justification by faith as a means which is given the sinner by God” (Herman Hoeksema, “As to Conditions,” Standard Bearer, vol. 26, issue 2 [Oct 15, 1949] 30).

“If, however, faith is a God-given instrument it is completely outside of the category of condition, for the simple reason that, in that case, it belongs to salvation itself. It is part of the work of God whereby He brings sinners to Christ and makes them partakers of all His benefits of righteousness, life, and glory. And part of salvation cannot, at the same time, be a condition unto salvation” (Herman Hoeksema, “As to Conditions,” Standard Bearer, vol. 26, issue 3 [Nov 1, 1949], 52).

“Faith is not of man. It is a God-ordained and God-given instrument, for ‘the Holy Ghost kindleth in our hearts an upright faith.’ The power or faculty of faith is wrought in the moment of regeneration, and active faith, which the article [Belgic Confession, Article 22—MMcG] has in mind especially, is wrought by the Spirit in our hearts through the preaching of the Word of God" (Herman Hoeksema, “As to Conditions,” Standard Bearer, vol. 26, issue 3 [Nov 1, 1949], 53).

“But what demands our special attention in this connection is the fact that faith, and that, too, conscious faith, which is wrought through the hearing of the Word of God, is here presented as part of our salvation, given to us by the Holy Ghost. And again I maintain that part of our salvation cannot, at the same time, be a condition which we must fulfill, or with which we must comply, to obtain salvation” (Herman Hoeksema, “As to Conditions,” Standard Bearer, vol. 26, issue 3 [Nov 1, 1949], 53).

“The grace of faith is a free gift from God. Can, at the same time, faith be a condition with which we must comply to receive that free gift of God? We feel that this is absurd. Faith, moreover flows from God’s decree, and is bestowed only on the elect” (Herman Hoeksema, “As to Conditions,” Standard Bearer, vol. 26, issue 3 [Nov 1, 1949], 53).

“We are not chosen, and therefore, we are not saved on condition of faith, or [on condition] of the obedience of faith; but we are chosen to faith, and to the obedience of faith, and, therefore, we are saved through the instrument of faith, and in the way of obedience. That, and that only is Reformed language” (Herman Hoeksema, “As to Conditions,” Standard Bearer, vol. 26, issue 4 [Nov 15, 1949], 77).

“Faith never appears as a condition, but uniformly as a means or instrument which God works in the heart by the Holy Spirit. And to be sure, faith cannot be a condition which somehow man must fulfill and a God-given instrument, which He unconditionally works in man’s heart, at the same time” (Herman Hoeksema, “As to Conditions,” Standard Bearer, vol. 26, issue 5 [Dec 1, 1949], 100).

“Faith, or believing the promise of the gospel, is either a condition the fulfillment of which God demands of man before He saves him, and in order that God may establish His covenant with Him; or the gift of faith, together with the act of believing, is the sovereign work of God, and then it is no condition. And only the latter is true” (Herman Hoeksema, “As to Conditions,” Standard Bearer, vol. 26, issue 5 [Dec 1, 1949], 101).

God bestows the justifying faith. It belongs, therefore, to salvation itself. How then can a gift of salvation be a condition unto that gift? This is, evidently, absurd. Moreover, by this gift of justifying faith, bestowed upon us unconditionally by God, He leads us infallibly unto salvation. It is, therefore, all determined by God, faith and salvation, and there can be no conditions” (Herman Hoeksema, “As to Conditions,” Standard Bearer, vol. 26, issue 6 [Dec 15, 1949], 126).

“Faith is also an instrument on the part of God in as far as He brings us through faith to the consciousness of our justification, and speaks to us of peace in foro conscientiae. And on our part faith becomes means in as far as we through the act of faith accept and appropriate unto ourselves the righteousness of God in Christ” (Herman Hoeksema, “As to Conditions,” Standard Bearer, vol. 26, issue 9 [Feb 1, 1950], 197).

“According to the confessions faith is always presented as an instrument of God, part of salvation itself. And faith as an instrument which God works in our hearts certainly cannot be a condition at the same time” (Herman Hoeksema, “As to Conditions,” Standard Bearer, vol. 26, issue 11 [March 1, 1950], 246).

“In the Reformed confessions faith has clearly been circumscribed not as a condition, but as an instrument of God whereby He implants us and engrafts us into Christ” (Herman Hoeksema, “As to Conditions,” Standard Bearer, vol. 26, issue 11 [March 1, 1950], 246).

“Scripture never presents salvation as following immediately upon faith. In this sense, as salvation in time, it does not follow upon faith as a condition, but it includes faith. Faith is part of salvation itself” (Herman Hoeksema, “As to Conditions,” Standard Bearer, vol. 26, issue 11 [March 1, 1950], 247).

“The Holy Spirit, who first pricked them in their hearts [in Acts 2], regenerated and called them, now through the same preaching of the apostle Peter rouses them into conscious activity of repentance and baptism. Mark you, in all this there is absolutely no condition. The hearers do not take the initiative whatsoever. It is the Holy Spirit, that regenerated them and called them to faith, that now unconditionally rouses them to the activity of repentance. And when they thus repent, that repentance is not a condition unto salvation and unto the remission of sins, but is the active fruit in the hearers of the grace of God that wrought in them and that was first and unconditional” (Herman Hoeksema, “As to Conditions,” Standard Bearer, vol. 26, issue 12 [March 15, 1950], 273).

In summary, then, Hoeksema, the theological father of the Protestant Reformed churches taught that God promises salvation with all its benefits only to the elect, and that God works faith only in the elect, and that by means of that faith, which is God’s gift to the elect sinner, he makes the elect sinner possess salvation in time. Therefore, faith, which is part of salvation, cannot be a condition unto salvation. Such the Protestant Reformed Churches and her sisters teach, have always taught, and by God’s grace we trust shall continue to teach. We have also always taught that in the application of that salvation in our experience God employs a certain order, so that he grants certain benefits (decreed in election, purchased at the cross, and applied in time by the Holy Spirit) after he works in us to perform certain activities. Our activity of believing (which comes after God’s activity of regenerating and calling us) precedes God’s justification of us by means of that faith: we believe; then we are justified, and without faith we are not justified. Our activity of repenting (which is God’s gift to us, and which also comes after God’s activity of regenerating and calling us) precedes God’s pardon of our sins: we repent; then God forgives. That is how God deals with us as rational, moral, time-bound creatures without ever making our salvation depend upon or be contingent upon what we do.

In the next blog post, DV, we will examine conditional grammar in the Bible. If God’s Word does, in fact, not teach conditions, why does God speak to us with conditional grammar? Why is the Bible full of statements such as “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Rom. 10:9)?






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