How Shall They Hear?

The Canons of Dordrecht – Article 3

And that men may be brought to believe, God mercifully sends the messengers of these most joyful tidings, to whom he will and at what time he pleaseth; by whose ministry men are called to repentance and faith in Christ crucified. “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach except they be sent” (Romans 10:14, 15)?

The main idea of the third article is the truth that God uses means to bring his people to saving faith in Jesus Christ. Thus the Canons take direct aim at one of the main objections of Arminianism to the truth of sovereign, unconditional predestination, namely, that it makes preaching unnecessary. If God has predestinated the elect to salvation, there is no reason to preach, complain the Arminians. But the answer is simple: God uses means.

God does not save without means, which are the instruments that God ordinarily uses to accomplish his purposes. The Canons insist on the sovereignty of God in preaching, for God sends preachers. And is sending preachers God determines who the preachers are, where they shall preach, when they shall preach, and to who, they shall preach. In the Old Testament, the gospel was preached almost exclusively to the Jews (Psalm 147:19-20). In the New Testament, while God includes the Gentiles, he continues to direct the preaching as it pleases him (Acts 16:6-10). Never, therefore, is the preaching outside of the sovereign, determinative will of God.

The logic is inescapable: If God has determined who shall hear the gospel, which is the only means of salvation, he has also determined who shall be saved. If God has determined the means or the instrument, surely, he has also determined the end or the goal. We know from the Scriptures and from our observation of history that multitudes have lived and died without ever hearing the gospel of salvation. We confess with the Canons that it was no accident that they did not hear, but that it was the will of God who sends the gospel to some and withholds it from others.

From “Grace and Assurance” by Martyn McGeown
Published by “Reformed Free Publishing Association”
Used with the publisher’s permission.
The book can be purchased at:
Grace and Assurance

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