The Apostate of 1953 and the Three Points

The second statement to which the apostates subscribe, let us remember, is: "Our act of conversion is a prerequisite to enter into the kingdom of God." 

According to explanation by Bellflower (Doezema), this may mean to the consciousness of the believer that all the requisites of salvation are fulfilled in Christ is a prerequisite to enter into the kingdom of God or to lay hold on the claim to the riches of Christ. 

In other words, before (pre-requisite) we enter into the kingdom of God, we must live in the consciousness that all the blessings of salvation are in Christ and are fulfilled in Him. 

I will admit that this is implied in the second statement. Only, it makes it much worse. 

It is Reformed and Scriptural, according to the Baptism Form, "that we cannot enter into the kingdom of God, except we are born again." 

This means, of course: 

1. That before we enter into the kingdom of God we are unregenerate, in the darkness of sin and death. 

2. In that darkness we cannot, will not, and cannot will to, enter into the kingdom of God. Nor can we fulfill any prerequisites to enter into that kingdom. If God should require of us any good works at all in order to enter into His kingdom the case would be absolutely hopeless. 

3. That before we can possibly enter the kingdom of God, not we, but God must do something: He must regenerate us. And regeneration is absolutely a work of God, without our aid or cooperation. 

But, according to Bellflower, we must not only convert ourselves before we enter the kingdom of God, but we must live in the consciousness that Christ has fulfilled all the requisites of salvation. That, of course, is the consciousness of faith. In other words, while we are outside of the kingdom of God, unregenerate, lying in the darkness of sin and death, we must live in that consciousness which is the consciousness, of faith! 

This is worse than the statement itself. In fact, it is sheer nonsense. 

To my mind, it merely proves that this second statement to which the apostates subscribe cannot be interpreted in a sound sense and that they themselves realize it very well. 

However, Bellflower does not positively state that thisis the interpretation. It may be. But it also may means something else. In fact, Bellflower offers another possible explanation. It is this: "Such a statement may refer also to the progressive entering the kingdom as we are called to a godly walk, and to run the race set before us, to turn from self to Christ." 

Let us examine this interpretation. 

Remember that this is supposed to be an interpretation of the statement "our act of conversion is a prerequisite to enter into the kingdom of God." 

The crux of the whole matter is in that one term PREREQUISITE. 

And this term is the predicate of the first term: OUR ACT OF CONVERSION.

The question, therefore, is: what is first? 

Are we in the kingdom first or do we convert ourselves before we enter into the kingdom? Do we repent and turn away from sin to righteousness, before we are in the kingdom of God, or do we convert ourselves and repent in the kingdom of God? Or, to use the language of Bellflower, do we fulfill our calling "to a godly walk, and to run the race set before us, to turn from self to Christ," before we enter the kingdom of God even "progressively" or can we fulfill this calling only in the kingdom of God? Or, to express it in still different words: are we, after we once are regenerated, and translated into the kingdom of God's dear Son, ever outside of that kingdom? Is, in our act of conversion, man ever first, or is God always the author? 

We say: once regenerated is always regenerated: regeneration can never be lost. Once engrafted into Christ is always to remain in Him: the principle of faith can never be lost. Once in the kingdom of God is always to be in the kingdom of God: there are never any prerequisites to enter into the kingdom of God. Our act of conversion is always, even progressively and repeatedly, the fruit of God's grace of conversion. God is always first. 

To be sure, the believer may, for a time, lose the consciousness of being regenerated and of being in the kingdom of God because of his sin, because, for a time, he lives according to the old man rather than according to the new. 

Our Reformed fathers were well aware of this as is evident from the Canons of Dordrecht, chapter 5. There we read in Art. 4: 

"Although the weakness of the flesh cannot prevail against the power of God, who confirms and preserves true believers in a state of grace, yet converts are not always so influenced and actuated by the Spirit of God, as not in some particular instances sinfully to deviate from the guidance of divine grace, so as to be seduced by and comply with the lusts of the flesh; they must, therefore, be constant in watching and prayer, that they be not led into temptation. When these are neglected, they are not only liable to be drawn into great and heinous sins, by Satan, the world; and the flesh, but sometimes by the righteous permission of God actually fall into these evils. This, the lamentable fall of David, Peter and other saints described in the holy Scripture, demonstrates."

Again, in Art. 5 of the same chapter we read: 

"By such enormous sins, however, they highly offend God, incur a deadly guilt, grieve the Holy Spirit, interrupt the exercise of faith, very grievously wound their consciences; and sometimes lose the sense of God's favor, for a time, until on their returning to the right way by serious repentance, the light of God's fatherly countenance again shines upon them." 

The question that concerns us here is whether this "returning unto the right way by serious repentance" is a perquisite to enter into the kingdom of God? Is, in this act of conversion, God first or man? This question is also answered by the Canons. In V, 6, we read: 

"But God, who is rich in mercy, according to his unchangeable purpose of election; does not wholly withdraw the Holy Spirit from his own people: even in their melancholy falls; nor suffers them to proceed so far as to lose the grace of adoption, or to commit the sin unto death; nor does he permit them to be totally deserted, and to plunge themselves into everlasting destruction." 

And in V, 7: 

"For in the first place, in these falls he preserves in them the incorruptible seed of regeneration from perishing or being totally lost; and again by his Word and Spirit, certainly and effectually renews them to repentance, to a sincere and godly sorrow for their sins, that they may seek and obtain remission in the blood of the Mediator, may again experience the favor of a reconciled God, through faith adore his mercies, and henceforward more diligently work out their own salvation with fear and trembling." 

And once more, V, 8: 

"Thus it is not in consequence of their own merits, or strength, but of God's free mercy, that they do not totally fall from faith and grace, nor continue and perish finally in their backslidings; which, with respect to themselves, is not only possible, but would undoubtedly happen; but with respect to God, it is utterly impossible, since his counsel cannot be changed, nor his promise fail, neither can the call according to his purpose be revoked, nor the merit, intercession, and preservation of Christ be rendered ineffectual, nor the sealing of the Holy Spirit be frustrated or obliterated." 

What do these passages teach? 

1. That believers, by following the lusts of the flesh, certainly may, for a time, lose the sense of the favor of God and, therefore, the consciousness that they are in the kingdom of God. 

2. That, nevertheless, even then, they are not outside of but in the kingdom of God, for they are still regenerated, and the incorruptible seed of regeneration can never be lost. 

3. That the fact that they come to repentance is not due to any merit or effort of their own for, as far as they are concerned, they would surely perish; but is due only to God's sovereign grace, who preserves in them the seed of regeneration according to his eternal counsel of election. 

The conclusion of it all is that our act of conversion, whether in its initial sense or in its repeated and progressive stages, is never a prerequisite to enter into the kingdom of God. It is always as being regenerated and, therefore, as being in the kingdom of God, that we perform our act of conversion and walk in a new and holy life. 

Bellflower (Doezema) is in error. 

And all the apostates who subscribe to this second statement are also in error.

Principally, the trouble is, that they depart from the Reformed truth of God's sovereign grace. 

That was the error of the Christian Reformed Synod of Kalamazoo in 1924, when they adopted the theory of common grace in the Arminian sense of the word, especially when they adopted the error that the preaching of the gospel is a well-meant offer of salvation, on the part of God, to all that hear the gospel. 

And that is, principally, the error of the two statements which the apostates maintain and because of which they caused schism in the Protestant Reformed Churches. 

The attempt is always to make man do something in respect to his salvation. This is the error of all Arminianism. Usually, on the part of those that are in the Reformed Churches, and intend to remain members of them and even ministers in them, this attempt is camouflaged. Terms are employed that are doubtful and ambiguous. This was the case with regard to the Arminians of the seventeenth century. At that time, when the Remonstrance was published, many people in the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands, could not understand what was wrong with the followers of Arminius. This is no less true of the two statements to which the apostates subscribe. And Bellflower (Doezema) camouflages the statements still further by their attempted interpretation. 

We may be glad and are thankful to the Lord that He opened the eyes of our churches in time and that the apostates revealed themselves when they did. 

May the Lord give us grace to remain faithful! 

H.H.