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Author:Rev. Stephen 't Hart
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Melville
 Melville, Australia
Title:God will most certainly bring his elect to salvation
Text:CD 2 art 8-9 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Bible Translation: ESV

Book of Praise: 2014

Psalm 149:1

Hymn 36:1,2,3,4

Psalm 108:2

Psalm 9:1,4,5

Read:  John 6:22-51

Text:  Canons of Dort chap. 2 art. 8-9; R.E. 1

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

One of the most troubling questions that many Christians struggle with is this:  How can I be sure that I will be saved?  How can I be sure that what Jesus did on the cross is not just for others but is also for me?  Indeed, can you ever be sure of your salvation?  And if so, on what foundation, on what basis does this certainty rest?

  This matter of the assurance of salvation was one of the main pastoral concerns that the Synod of Dort wanted to address.  It is questions such as "How can I be sure of my salvation?" that show us how practical and how relevant the Canons of Dort are for our daily lives.  We've already heard things about the assurance of salvation in earlier sermons on chapters 1 and 2 of the Canons but today we will consider this in the context of the efficacy of the death of Christ.  In other words, we will consider the assurance of salvation in the context of what Christ actually accomplished for his people through his death.  And, making use of what we read in John 6 as well as other parts of Scripture, in connection with what is confessed in chapter 2, article 8 and 9 of the Canons of Dort, we will see that it was God's will to see to it that through the death of Christ he will most certainly bring his elect to salvation.  I preach God's Word to you under this theme:

God will most certainly bring his elect to salvation.

This certainty is based on:

1. God's will

2. God's love


1. God's will

As we go through the teaching of God's Word as explained in chapter 2, article 8 & 9 of the Canons of Dort this afternoon, the first question I want you to think about is this:  What was God's plan in sending his Son Jesus to die on the cross?  What was his intention, what was his will? 

The answer to this question was a major point of difference between the Reformed and the Arminians at the Synod of Dort.  The Reformed said that God sent his Son Jesus to die for the specific purpose of saving his people, the elect, from their sin.  The Arminians, on the other hand, said that this was not God's purpose at all.  They said that God sent Jesus to die to simply make it possible for all people to be saved, but whether or not a person is saved is entirely up to you. 

  The Reformed position, that Christ died specifically for the sake of the elect, has often been called Limited Atonement. It is interesting to notice, however, that this term "Limited Atonement" is not used in article 8 of the Canons of Dort, and in fact it isn't used in the Canons at all.  That's probably a good thing, as the term "Limited Atonement" gives the impression that there was a limitation to the value of Christ's death, that his death was not enough to pay for the sins of everyone.  But that's not true: we have already learned in chapter 2 article 3 of the Canons that Christ's death was of such infinite value that it was sufficient to pay for the sins of the whole world.  There is nothing wrong and nothing short, therefore, in the sacrifice of Christ on the cross.  The point is, however, that it was never was God's intention to save everybody, nor did he send Jesus to die for everybody in exactly the same way.  The Bible teaches us that from the beginning, even before the world was created, it was God's will to elect certain people, specific individuals, to salvation - and he sent Jesus to make that happen.

We read together from John chapter 6.  Earlier in John chapter 6 the Lord Jesus had fed the 5000 with the miracle of the bread and fish.  Following this miracle, on the next day, the crowds met up with Jesus again and he warned them in verse 27,

"Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you."

And that "food that endures to eternal life", further explained, was himself, the One, verse 27 says, on whom "God the Father has set his seal".  He is the bread of life, and whoever eats of this bread, that is, whoever believes in him, will have eternal life. 

  So what Jesus was saying here was that it was enough for the crowds to rush after him to see more miracles, to eat more physical bread.  They had to believe who he really is, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, the One who came to give life to the world.  And Jesus said to them in John 6:35,

"I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst."

But then look at verse 36.

"But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe."

Now let that sink in for a moment.  In John 6:29 the Lord Jesus had said,

"This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent"

but now in verse 36 we learn that the very people to whom he this did not believe.  How should the Lord Jesus respond to this?  Remember what Jesus was about to do.  Remember that he was going to go to Jerusalem to die on the cross.  Remember that he was going to do this for the salvation of everyone who believes in him.  But now he's faced with a crowd of people who did not believe that he was the Christ.  Now he's faced with a crowd of people who rushed after the physical bread and fish that he had provided, but were not prepared to receive him, the Bread of Life.  What would Jesus do?  How would he respond to this unbelief?  For the Arminian, this would be a time of panic.  Remember that the Arminians taught that Jesus death would only make it possible for people to be saved, but that a person is only saved if he or she, of his own free will, outside of God's intervention, would believe.  But now here is Jesus - and the very people who were saying "Give us this bread always" (vs 34) did not believe!  Would Jesus' death on the cross actually end up saving anyone then?  Or would it all be for nothing?

  This is not a strawman argument that I'm putting forward here; this is what the Arminians really said.  Have a look at the Rejection of Errors, chapter 2, number 1.

God the Father has ordained his Son to the death of the cross without a specific and definite decree to save any. What Christ obtained by his death might have been necessary, profitable, and valuable, and might remain in all its parts complete, perfect, and intact, even though the redemption he acquired had actually never been applied to any person.

God sent Jesus to the cross, they said, simply to make it possible to be saved, but not with the salvation of anyone in particular in mind.  And in those days, in the 1600s, there was an Arminian preacher (Nicholaas Grevinchovius) who actually said that "although Christ laid down his life, it was possible nevertheless that his death might not be applied to any."[1]  Now if this was true, you would think that when he faced those Jews who did not believe in him, that the Lord Jesus would almost be beside himself with grief.  He would plead with them and beg them to believe, lest his death on the cross would be all in vain.

Except Jesus does not do that.  Although he was no doubt grieved, the Lord Jesus was not discouraged by the refusal of the Jews to believe, as though what he was about to do, in dying on the cross, would be all for nothing.  Rather than weep in despair, the Lord Jesus remained confident that his ministry and death would accomplish God's purpose and will.  Listen to what he further said in John 6:37.

"All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out."

They will come, because the Father had given them to Christ.  And verse 38,

"For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me."

God has a will, he has a plan.  And Jesus had come see that God's will, his plan, would be done.  And what was that will?  John 6:39,

"And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day."

The Jews who had come for the loaves and fishes and then looked for more bread and fish the next day did not believe that Jesus is the Christ, the One who had come to save his people from their sin.  But those whom the Father had given him would believe and they would be saved. 

  This is what the rest of the Bible teaches us also.  Ephesians 1:11-12 for example.

11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.

We have been predestined, elect unto salvation, according to the purpose of God.  He chose us in advance and he makes everything work out according to his plan.  And so Jesus went on in John 6:44,

"No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.  And I will raise him up on the last day."

The Bible teaches us, therefore, that from the beginning God had elected certain people, individuals, to salvation and it was for them whom Jesus would effectively die, and they would most certainly be saved.    And that's what the Canons of Dort, chapter 2, article 8 is all about.  Let's read that together again, one section at a time.

For this was the most free counsel of God the Father, that the life-giving and saving efficacy of the most precious death of his Son should extend to all the elect. It was his most gracious will and intent to give to them alone justifying faith and thereby to bring them unfailingly to salvation.

In other words, it was God's plan the death of Christ would lead to the salvation of all the elect.  It was to them, those whom God has chosen before the world was even created, that God would work faith in their hearts and so bring them to salvation.  Indeed, they would be brought "unfailingly" to salvation, since, John 6:37 says,

"All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out."

Reading on,

 This means: God willed that Christ through the blood of the cross (by which he confirmed the new covenant) should effectually redeem out of every people, tribe, nation, and tongue all those, and those only, who from eternity were chosen to salvation and were given to him by the Father.

That is, that those whom the Father had chosen and gave to the Son would indeed be saved by his blood.  And in this way people will be saved from every people, tribe, nation and language.  Reading on,

God further willed that Christ should give to them faith, which, together with other saving gifts of the Holy Spirit, he acquired for them by his death;

That means, by his death on the cross Christ not only acquired salvation for the elect, but applies salvation to the elect.  He works salvation in the hearts of those for whom he died.  And then reading the last part of article 8 of the Canons,

that he should cleanse them by his blood from all sins, both original and actual, both those committed after faith and before faith; and that he should guard them faithfully to the end and at last present them to himself in splendour without any spot or wrinkle.

That's what God's will was for those whom he had chosen, that not only would Christ die for them, but that Christ, through the Holy Spirit, would effectively bring them to salvation.  That's the power and that's the promise of the gospel!  And that's why we can be sure of our salvation.  Because it depends not on us and on our will, but on God and on his will.  That brings us to our second point.


2. God's love

One of the most pernicious or wicked attacks on the Reformed teaching of election is that it turns God into a cold and cruel being.  We've already heard these accusations when we learned about election and reprobation, but these attacks were also made with respect to the teaching on for whom did Christ die.  But the Canons of Dort will have none of this.  The fact that God will most certainly bring his elect - and the elect alone - to salvation is a comforting doctrine, and it is a doctrine that speaks to us about God's love.  Chapter 2 article 8 points this out when it says in the second sentence,

"It was his most gracious will and intent to give to them alone justifying faith and thereby to bring them unfailingly to salvation."

It was gracious of him.  God did not have to do this.  He did not have to save anybody.  But he did, and he did out of love.  The first sentence of article 9 says,

"This counsel, proceeding from eternal love for the elect, has been from the beginning of the world to the present time been powerfully fulfilled , and will also continue to be fulfilled, though the gates of hell vainly try to frustrate it."

This counsel, this plan of God, proceeds from the eternal love of God for the elect!  It is because he loved us that he planned to save us, and it is because he loved us that he gave us his only begotten Son.  By sending us his Son, God did everything in his power to redeem those whom he loves.  I want you to think about that for a moment.  I want you to think about the fact that it was not some general sort of love for the world, love for humanity in general that God had, but it was a specific, personal and saving love that he had for us.  It was because God had loving thoughts of me, because he loved me, that he sent his son to die for me!   That's the miracle of it all!  That God could love individuals - sinners - such as you and me.  And that on account of that love, he might send His Son for me.

But how do I know this love is for me?  How do you know if this love is for you?  John 6:40,

"For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day."

That's the message, and that's the promise for each one of us.  Believe in Jesus Christ, receiving him as the bread of life, and you will be saved!

  The Canons of Dort will go on to tell us that the doctrine of election does not turn us into stocks and blocks.  It does not leave us sitting on our hands in a fatalistic fashion as though there is no point in calling people to believe or not to believe since those who are elect will be saved anyway, and those who are not elect will be condemned.  No!  That's not the message.  That's not we are being taught.  The call to believe is a genuine call and the promise of eternal life to all who believe is a genuine promise.  And so we may never use the doctrine of election as an excuse to throw up our hands and say we can’t do anything anyway, its all up to God.  But not only that, we should never fear this doctrine nor despair that we may or may not be one of God’s elect.  Because what does Christ say in John 6:37?

“All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will by never cast out.”

He will never cast you out!  He will not do that.  If you seek after Him, if you come to Christ, He will receive you.  Isn't that amazing!  Isn't that such a beautiful promise?

"Amazing love!  how can it be that thou, my God, shouldst die for me?"

But there's more.  Not only will he receive you, but he will receive all those whom he has elected to eternal life.  It is God's will that he will most certainly bring his elect to salvation, and he will do it.  He will gather his people - his church - from all places, throughout all of time, and that church will always be there to sing his praise.  To quote from the rest of chapter 2, article 9 of the Canons,

In due time the elect will be gathered together into one, and there will always be a church of believers, founded on the blood of Christ. This church shall steadfastly love and faithfully serve him as her Saviour (who as bridegroom for his bride laid down his life for her on the cross) and celebrate his praises here and through all eternity.

Ephesians 5:25 says,

"Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her."

He loved the church and gave himself for her.  It was out of love that God sent his Son, and it was out love that the Son died for his church.  And that church will always be there because God will always have his people.  If it was up to us to believe, if it was up to us to stay strong and if the church was nothing more than a group of people who, by their own free will, decided to get together, then we would be lost and the church would be gone.  But if we are saved by the power of God, and if the church is gathered in by the love of God, then we will always be with him.  Then we can be sure that God will most certainly bring his elect to salvation.

At the beginning of this sermon I asked you, "How can I be sure that I will be saved?  How can I be sure that what Jesus did on the cross is not just for others but is also for me? On what foundation, on what basis does this certainty rest?"  For the Arminian there is no certainty.  For the one who thinks that the power to believe comes not from God but from yourself, there is no assurance of salvation.  But we who turn to the Scriptures and confess the full gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ, a salvation that is from beginning to end in Jesus Christ, we may be sure that we will have life in him and that he will raise us up on the last day. 

"I am the living bread that comes down from heaven"

Jesus said in John 6:50.

"If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever."

You can be sure that God will most certainly bring his elect to salvation.  He will do so on account of the fact that this is his will, and you can be sure that he will do so on account of his love.




[1] Quoted in Daniel Hyde "Grace worth Fighting For", p205.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2020, Rev. Stephen 't Hart

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