The Canons of Dort


      "The Decision of the Synod of Dort on the Five Main Points of Doctrine

in Dispute in the Netherlands" is popularly known as the Canons of Dort. It

consists of statements of doctrine adopted by the great Synod of Dort which

met in the city of Dordrecht in 1618-19. Although this was a national synod of

the Reformed churches of the Netherlands, it had an international character,

since it was composed not only of Dutch delegates but also of twenty-six

delegates from eight foreign countries.

      The Synod of Dort was held in order to settle a serious controversy in

the Dutch churches initiated by the rise of Arminianism. Jacob Arminius, a

theological professor at Leiden University, questioned the teaching of Calvin

and his followers on a number of important points. After Arminius's death, his

own followers presented their views on five of these points in the

Remonstrance of 1610. In this document or in later more explicit writings, the

Arminians taught election based on foreseen faith, universal atonement,

partial depravity, resistible grace, and the possibility of a lapse from

grace. In the Canons the Synod of Dort rejected these views and set forth the

Reformed doctrine on these points, namely, unconditional election, limited

atonement, total depravity, irresistible grace, and the perseverance of


      The Canons have a special character because of their original purpose as

a judicial decision on the doctrinal points in dispute during the Arminian

controversy. The original preface called them a "judgment, in which both the

true view, agreeing with God's Word, concerning the aforesaid five points of

doctrine is explained, and the false view, disagreeing with God's Word, is

rejected." The Canons also have a limited character in that they do not cover

the whole range of doctrine, but focus on the five points of doctrine in


      Each of the main points consists of a positive and a negative part, the

former being an exposition of the Reformed doctrine on the subject, the latter

a repudiation of the corresponding errors. Each of the errors being rejected

is shaded in gray. Although in form there are only four points, we speak

properly of five points, because the Canons were structured to correspond to

the five articles of the 1610 Remonstrance. Main Points 3 and 4 were combined

into one, always designated as Main Point III/IV.

      This translation of the Canons, based on the only extant Latin

manuscript among those signed at the Synod of Dort, was adopted by the 1986

Synod of the Christian Reformed Church. The biblical quotations are

translations from the original Latin and so do not always correspond to

current versions. Though not in the original text, subheadings have been added

to the positive articles and to the conclusion in order to facilitate study of

the Canons.
                  The Canons of Dort


                                Formally Titled

     The Decision of the Synod of Dort on the Five Main Points of Doctrine

                         in Dispute in the Netherlands


                       The First Main Point of Doctrine


                        Divine Election and Reprobation


                 The Judgment Concerning Divine Predestination

       Which the Synod Declares to Be in Agreement with the Word of God

                and Accepted Till Now in the Reformed Churches,

                         Set Forth in Several Articles



Article 1: God's Right to Condemn All People

      Since all people have sinned in Adam and have come under the sentence of

the curse and eternal death, God would have done no one an injustice if it had

been his will to leave the entire human race in sin and under the curse, and

to condemn them on account of their sin. As the apostle says: "The whole world

is liable to the condemnation of God" (Rom. 3:19), "All have sinned and are

deprived of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23), and "The wages of sin is death"

(Rom. 6:23).*


      *All quotations from Scripture are translations of the original Latin




Article 2: The Manifestation of God's Love

      But this is how God showed his love: he sent his only begotten Son into

the world, so that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal



Article 3: The Preaching of the Gospel

      In order that people may be brought to faith, God mercifully sends

proclaimers of this very joyful message to the people he wishes and at the

time he wishes. By this ministry people are called to repentance and faith in

Christ crucified. For "how shall they believe in him of whom they have not

heard? And how shall they hear without someone preaching? And how shall they

preach unless they have been sent?" (Rom. 10:14-15).


Article 4: A Twofold Response to the Gospel

      God's anger remains on those who do not believe this gospel. But those

who do accept it and embrace Jesus the Savior with a true and living faith are

delivered through him from God's anger and from destruction, and receive the

gift of eternal life.


Article 5: The Sources of Unbelief and of Faith

      The cause or blame for this unbelief, as well as for all other sins, is

not at all in God, but in man. Faith in Jesus Christ, however, and salvation

through him is a free gift of God. As Scripture says, "It is by grace you have

been saved, through faith, and this not from yourselves; it is a gift of God"

(Eph. 2:8). Likewise: "It has been freely given to you to believe in Christ"

(Phil. 1:29).


Article 6: God's Eternal Decision

      The fact that some receive from God the gift of faith within time, and

that others do not, stems from his eternal decision. For "all his works are

known to God from eternity" (Acts 15:18; Eph. 1:11). In accordance with this

decision he graciously softens the hearts, however hard, of his chosen ones

and inclines them to believe, but by his just judgment he leaves in their

wickedness and hardness of heart those who have not been chosen. And in this

especially is disclosed to us his act—;unfathomable, and as merciful as it is

just—;of distinguishing between people equally lost. This is the well-known

decision of election and reprobation revealed in God's Word. This decision the

wicked, impure, and unstable distort to their own ruin, but it provides holy

and godly souls with comfort beyond words.


Article 7: Election

      Election [or choosing] is God's unchangeable purpose by which he did the



            Before the foundation of the world, by sheer grace, according to

      the free good pleasure of his will, he chose in Christ to salvation a

      definite number of particular people out of the entire human race, which

      had fallen by its own fault from its original innocence into sin and

      ruin. Those chosen were neither better nor more deserving than the

      others, but lay with them in the common misery. He did this in Christ,

      whom he also appointed from eternity to be the mediator, the head of all

      those chosen, and the foundation of their salvation.

            And so he decided to give the chosen ones to Christ to be saved,

      and to call and draw them effectively into Christ's fellowship through

      his Word and Spirit. In other words, he decided to grant them true faith

      in Christ, to justify them, to sanctify them, and finally, after

      powerfully preserving them in the fellowship of his Son, to glorify



      God did all this in order to demonstrate his mercy, to the praise of the

riches of his glorious grace.

      As Scripture says, "God chose us in Christ, before the foundation of the

world, so that we should be holy and blameless before him with love; he

predestined us whom he adopted as his children through Jesus Christ, in

himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his

glorious grace, by which he freely made us pleasing to himself in his beloved"

(Eph. 1:4-6). And elsewhere, "Those whom he predestined, he also called; and

those whom he called, he also justified; and those whom he justified, he also

glorified" (Rom. 8:30).


Article 8: A Single Decision of Election

      This election is not of many kinds; it is one and the same election for

all who were to be saved in the Old and the New Testament. For Scripture

declares that there is a single good pleasure, purpose, and plan of God's

will, by which he chose us from eternity both to grace and to glory, both to

salvation and to the way of salvation, which he prepared in advance for us to

walk in.


Article 9: Election Not Based on Foreseen Faith

      This same election took place, not on the basis of foreseen faith, of

the obedience of faith, of holiness, or of any other good quality and

disposition, as though it were based on a prerequisite cause or condition in

the person to be chosen, but rather for the purpose of faith, of the obedience

of faith, of holiness, and so on. Accordingly, election is the source of each

of the benefits of salvation. Faith, holiness, and the other saving gifts, and

at last eternal life itself, flow forth from election as its fruits and

effects. As the apostle says, "He chose us" (not because we were, but) "so

that we should be holy and blameless before him in love" (Eph. 1:4).


Article 10: Election Based on God's Good Pleasure

      But the cause of this undeserved election is exclusively the good

pleasure of God. This does not involve his choosing certain human qualities or

actions from among all those possible as a condition of salvation, but rather

involves his adopting certain particular persons from among the common mass of

sinners as his own possession. As Scripture says, "When the children were not

yet born, and had done nothing either good or bad..., she" (Rebecca)" was

told, "The older will serve the younger." As it is written, "Jacob I loved,

but Esau I hated"" (Rom. 9:11-13). Also, "All who were appointed for eternal

life believed" (Acts 13:48).


Article 11: Election Unchangeable

      Just as God himself is most wise, unchangeable, all-knowing, and

almighty, so the election made by him can neither be suspended nor altered,

revoked, or annulled; neither can his chosen ones be cast off, nor their

number reduced.


Article 12: The Assurance of Election

      Assurance of this their eternal and unchangeable election to salvation

is given to the chosen in due time, though by various stages and in differing

measure. Such assurance comes not by inquisitive searching into the hidden and

deep things of God, but by noticing within themselves, with spiritual joy and

holy delight, the unmistakable fruits of election pointed out in God's Word—;

such as a true faith in Christ, a childlike fear of God, a godly sorrow for

their sins, a hunger and thirst for righteousness, and so on.


Article 13: The Fruit of This Assurance

      In their awareness and assurance of this election God's children daily

find greater cause to humble themselves before God, to adore the fathomless

depth of his mercies, to cleanse themselves, and to give fervent love in

return to him who first so greatly loved them. This is far from saying that

this teaching concerning election, and reflection upon it, make God's children

lax in observing his commandments or carnally self-assured. By God's just

judgment this does usually happen to those who casually take for granted the

grace of election or engage in idle and brazen talk about it but are unwilling

to walk in the ways of the chosen.


Article 14: Teaching Election Properly

      Just as, by God's wise plan, this teaching concerning divine election

has been proclaimed through the prophets, Christ himself, and the apostles, in

Old and New Testament times, and has subsequently been committed to writing in

the Holy Scriptures, so also today in God's church, for which it was

specifically intended, this teaching must be set forth—;with a spirit of

discretion, in a godly and holy manner, at the appropriate time and place,

without inquisitive searching into the ways of the Most High. This must be

done for the glory of God's most holy name, and for the lively comfort of his



Article 15: Reprobation

      Moreover, Holy Scripture most especially highlights this eternal and

undeserved grace of our election and brings it out more clearly for us, in

that it further bears witness that not all people have been chosen but that

some have not been chosen or have been passed by in God's eternal election—;

those, that is, concerning whom God, on the basis of his entirely free, most

just, irreproachable, and unchangeable good pleasure, made the following



            to leave them in the common misery into which, by their own fault,

      they have plunged themselves;

            not to grant them saving faith and the grace of conversion;

            but finally to condemn and eternally punish them (having been left

      in their own ways and under his just judgment), not only for their

      unbelief but also for all their other sins, in order to display his



      And this is the decision of reprobation, which does not at all make God

the author of sin (a blasphemous thought!) but rather its fearful,

irreproachable, just judge and avenger.




Article 16: Responses to the Teaching of Reprobation

      Those who do not yet actively experience within themselves a living

faith in Christ or an assured confidence of heart, peace of conscience, a zeal

for childlike obedience, and a glorying in God through Christ, but who

nevertheless use the means by which God has promised to work these things in

us—;such people ought not to be alarmed at the mention of reprobation, nor to

count themselves among the reprobate; rather they ought to continue diligently

in the use of the means, to desire fervently a time of more abundant grace,

and to wait for it in reverence and humility. On the other hand, those who

seriously desire to turn to God, to be pleasing to him alone, and to be

delivered from the body of death, but are not yet able to make such progress

along the way of godliness and faith as they would like—;such people ought

much less to stand in fear of the teaching concerning reprobation, since our

merciful God has promised that he will not snuff out a smoldering wick and

that he will not break a bruised reed. However, those who have forgotten God

and their Savior Jesus Christ and have abandoned themselves wholly to the

cares of the world and the pleasures of the flesh—;such people have every

reason to stand in fear of this teaching, as long as they do not seriously

turn to God.


Article 17: The Salvation of the Infants of Believers

      Since we must make judgments about God's will from his Word, which

testifies that the children of believers are holy, not by nature but by virtue

of the gracious covenant in which they together with their parents are

included, godly parents ought not to doubt the election and salvation of their

children whom God calls out of this life in infancy.


Article 18: The Proper Attitude Toward Election and Reprobation

      To those who complain about this grace of an undeserved election and

about the severity of a just reprobation, we reply with the words of the

apostle, "Who are you, O man, to talk back to God?" (Rom. 9:20), and with the

words of our Savior, "Have I no right to do what I want with my own?" (Matt.

20:15). We, however, with reverent adoration of these secret things, cry out

with the apostle: "Oh, the depths of the riches both of the wisdom and the

knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways beyond

tracing out! For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his

counselor? Or who has first given to God, that God should repay him? For from

him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever!

Amen" (Rom. 11:33-36).




      Rejection of the Errors by Which the Dutch Churches Have for Some Time

Been Disturbed


      Having set forth the orthodox teaching concerning election and

reprobation, the Synod rejects the errors of those



      Who teach that the will of God to save those who would believe and

persevere in faith and in the obedience of faith is the whole and entire

decision of election to salvation, and that nothing else concerning this

decision has been revealed in God's Word.

      For they deceive the simple and plainly contradict Holy Scripture in its

testimony that God does not only wish to save those who would believe, but

that he has also from eternity chosen certain particular people to whom,

rather than to others, he would within time grant faith in Christ and

perseverance. As Scripture says, "I have revealed your name to those whom you

gave me" (John 17:6). Likewise, "All who were appointed for eternal life

believed" (Acts 13:48), and "He chose us before the foundation of the world so

that we should be holy..." (Eph. 1:4).



      Who teach that God's election to eternal life is of many kinds: one

general and indefinite, the other particular and definite; and the latter in

turn either incomplete, revocable, nonperemptory (or conditional), or else

complete, irrevocable, and peremptory (or absolute). Likewise, who teach that

there is one election to faith and another to salvation, so that there can be

an election to justifying faith apart from a peremptory election to salvation.

      For this is an invention of the human brain, devised apart from the

Scriptures, which distorts the teaching concerning election and breaks up this

golden chain of salvation: "Those whom he predestined, he also called; and

those whom he called, he also justified; and those whom he justified, he also

glorified" (Rom. 8:30).



      Who teach that God's good pleasure and purpose, which Scripture mentions

in its teaching of election, does not involve God's choosing certain

particular people rather than others, but involves God's choosing, out of all

possible conditions (including the works of the law) or out of the whole order

of things, the intrinsically unworthy act of faith, as well as the imperfect

obedience of faith, to be a condition of salvation; and it involves his

graciously wishing to count this as perfect obedience and to look upon it as

worthy of the reward of eternal life.

      For by this pernicious error the good pleasure of God and the merit of

Christ are robbed of their effectiveness and people are drawn away, by

unprofitable inquiries, from the truth of undeserved justification and from

the simplicity of the Scriptures. It also gives the lie to these words of the

apostle: "God called us with a holy calling, not in virtue of works, but in

virtue of his own purpose and the grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus

before the beginning of time" (2 Tim. 1:9).



      Who teach that in election to faith a prerequisite condition is that man

should rightly use the light of nature, be upright, unassuming, humble, and

disposed to eternal life, as though election depended to some extent on these


      For this smacks of Pelagius, and it clearly calls into question the

words of the apostle: "We lived at one time in the passions of our flesh,

following the will of our flesh and thoughts, and we were by nature children

of wrath, like everyone else. But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great

love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in transgressions, made us

alive with Christ, by whose grace you have been saved. And God raised us up

with him and seated us with him in heaven in Christ Jesus, in order that in

the coming ages we might show the surpassing riches of his grace, according to

his kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been

saved, through faith (and this not from yourselves; it is the gift of God) not

by works, so that no one can boast" (Eph. 2:3-9).



      Who teach that the incomplete and nonperemptory election of particular

persons to salvation occurred on the basis of a foreseen faith, repentance,

holiness, and godliness, which has just begun or continued for some time; but

that complete and peremptory election occurred on the basis of a foreseen

perseverance to the end in faith, repentance, holiness, and godliness. And

that this is the gracious and evangelical worthiness, on account of which the

one who is chosen is more worthy than the one who is not chosen. And therefore

that faith, the obedience of faith, holiness, godliness, and perseverance are

not fruits or effects of an unchangeable election to glory, but indispensable

conditions and causes, which are prerequisite in those who are to be chosen in

the complete election, and which are foreseen as achieved in them.

      This runs counter to the entire Scripture, which throughout impresses

upon our ears and hearts these sayings among others: "Election is not by

works, but by him who calls" (Rom. 9:11-12); "All who were appointed for

eternal life believed" (Acts 13:48); "He chose us in himself so that we should

be holy" (Eph. 1:4); "You did not choose me, but I chose you" (John 15:16);

"If by grace, not by works" (Rom. 11:6); "In this is love, not that we loved

God, but that he loved us and sent his Son" (1 John 4:10).



      Who teach that not every election to salvation is unchangeable, but that

some of the chosen can perish and do in fact perish eternally, with no

decision of God to prevent it.

      By this gross error they make God changeable, destroy the comfort of the

godly concerning the steadfastness of their election, and contradict the Holy

Scriptures, which teach that "the elect cannot be led astray" (Matt. 24:24),

that "Christ does not lose those given to him by the Father" (John 6:39), and

that "those whom God predestined, called, and justified, he also glorifies"

(Rom. 8:30).



      Who teach that in this life there is no fruit, no awareness, and no

assurance of one's unchangeable election to glory, except as conditional upon

something changeable and contingent.

      For not only is it absurd to speak of an uncertain assurance, but these

things also militate against the experience of the saints, who with the

apostle rejoice from an awareness of their election and sing the praises of

this gift of God; who, as Christ urged, "rejoice" with his disciples "that

their names have been written in heaven" (Luke 10:20); and finally who hold up

against the flaming arrows of the devil's temptations the awareness of their

election, with the question "Who will bring any charge against those whom God

has chosen?" (Rom. 8:33).



      Who teach that it was not on the basis of his just will alone that God

decided to leave anyone in the fall of Adam and in the common state of sin and

condemnation or to pass anyone by in the imparting of grace necessary for

faith and conversion.

      For these words stand fast: "He has mercy on whom he wishes, and he

hardens whom he wishes" (Rom. 9:18). And also: "To you it has been given to

know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given"

(Matt. 13:11). Likewise: "I give glory to you, Father, Lord of heaven and

earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding, and

have revealed them to little children; yes, Father, because that was your

pleasure" (Matt. 11:25-26).



      Who teach that the cause for God's sending the gospel to one people

rather than to another is not merely and solely God's good pleasure, but

rather that one people is better and worthier than the other to whom the

gospel is not communicated.

      For Moses contradicts this when he addresses the people of Israel as

follows: "Behold, to Jehovah your God belong the heavens and the highest

heavens, the earth and whatever is in it. But Jehovah was inclined in his

affection to love your ancestors alone, and chose out their descendants after

them, you above all peoples, as at this day" (Deut. 10:14-15). And also

Christ: "Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! for if those mighty works

done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago

in sackcloth and ashes" (Matt. 11:21).
The Second Main Point of Doctrine


                Christ's Death and Human Redemption Through It


Article 1: The Punishment Which God's Justice Requires

      God is not only supremely merciful, but also supremely just. His justice

requires (as he has revealed himself in the Word) that the sins we have

committed against his infinite majesty be punished with both temporal and

eternal punishments, of soul as well as body. We cannot escape these

punishments unless satisfaction is given to God's justice.


Article 2: The Satisfaction Made by Christ

      Since, however, we ourselves cannot give this satisfaction or deliver

ourselves from God's anger, God in his boundless mercy has given us as a

guarantee his only begotten Son, who was made to be sin and a curse for us, in

our place, on the cross, in order that he might give satisfaction for us.


Article 3: The Infinite Value of Christ's Death

      This death of God's Son is the only and entirely complete sacrifice and

satisfaction for sins; it is of infinite value and worth, more than sufficient

to atone for the sins of the whole world.


Article 4: Reasons for This Infinite Value

      This death is of such great value and worth for the reason that the

person who suffered it is—;as was necessary to be our Savior—;not only a true

and perfectly holy man, but also the only begotten Son of God, of the same

eternal and infinite essence with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Another

reason is that this death was accompanied by the experience of God's anger and

curse, which we by our sins had fully deserved.


Article 5: The Mandate to Proclaim the Gospel to All

      Moreover, it is the promise of the gospel that whoever believes in

Christ crucified shall not perish but have eternal life. This promise,

together with the command to repent and believe, ought to be announced and

declared without differentiation or discrimination to all nations and people,

to whom God in his good pleasure sends the gospel.


Article 6: Unbelief Man's Responsibility

      However, that many who have been called through the gospel do not repent

or believe in Christ but perish in unbelief is not because the sacrifice of

Christ offered on the cross is deficient or insufficient, but because they

themselves are at fault.


Article 7: Faith God's Gift

      But all who genuinely believe and are delivered and saved by Christ's

death from their sins and from destruction receive this favor solely from

God's grace—;which he owes to no one—;given to them in Christ from eternity.


Article 8: The Saving Effectiveness of Christ's Death

      For it was the entirely free plan and very gracious will and intention

of God the Father that the enlivening and saving effectiveness of his Son's

costly death should work itself out in all his chosen ones, in order that he

might grant justifying faith to them only and thereby lead them without fail

to salvation. In other words, it was God's will that Christ through the blood

of the cross (by which he confirmed the new covenant) should effectively

redeem from every people, tribe, nation, and language all those and only those

who were chosen from eternity to salvation and given to him by the Father;

that he should grant them faith (which, like the Holy Spirit's other saving

gifts, he acquired for them by his death); that he should cleanse them by his

blood from all their sins, both original and actual, whether committed before

or after their coming to faith; that he should faithfully preserve them to the

very end; and that he should finally present them to himself, a glorious

people, without spot or wrinkle.


Article 9: The Fulfillment of God's Plan

      This plan, arising out of God's eternal love for his chosen ones, from

the beginning of the world to the present time has been powerfully carried out

and will also be carried out in the future, the gates of hell seeking vainly

to prevail against it. As a result the chosen are gathered into one, all in

their own time, and there is always a church of believers founded on Christ's

blood, a church which steadfastly loves, persistently worships, and—;here and

in all eternity—;praises him as her Savior who laid down his life for her on

the cross, as a bridegroom for his bride.


                            Rejection of the Errors


      Having set forth the orthodox teaching, the Synod rejects the errors of




      Who teach that God the Father appointed his Son to death on the cross

without a fixed and definite plan to save anyone by name, so that the

necessity, usefulness, and worth of what Christ's death obtained could have

stood intact and altogether perfect, complete and whole, even if the

redemption that was obtained had never in actual fact been applied to any


      For this assertion is an insult to the wisdom of God the Father and to

the merit of Jesus Christ, and it is contrary to Scripture. For the Savior

speaks as follows: "I lay down my life for the sheep, and I know them" (John

10:15, 27). And Isaiah the prophet says concerning the Savior: "When he shall

make himself an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, he shall prolong

his days, and the will of Jehovah shall prosper in his hand" (Isa. 53:10).

Finally, this undermines the article of the creed in which we confess what we

believe concerning the Church.



      Who teach that the purpose of Christ's death was not to establish in

actual fact a new covenant of grace by his blood, but only to acquire for the

Father the mere right to enter once more into a covenant with men, whether of

grace or of works.

      For this conflicts with Scripture, which teaches that Christ "has become

the guarantee and mediator of a better—;"that is, "a new-covenant" (Heb. 7:22;

9:15), "and that a will is in force only when someone has died" (Heb. 9:17).



      Who teach that Christ, by the satisfaction which he gave, did not

certainly merit for anyone salvation itself and the faith by which this

satisfaction of Christ is effectively applied to salvation, but only acquired

for the Father the authority or plenary will to relate in a new way with men

and to impose such new conditions as he chose, and that the satisfying of

these conditions depends on the free choice of man; consequently, that it was

possible that either all or none would fulfill them.

      For they have too low an opinion of the death of Christ, do not at all

acknowledge the foremost fruit or benefit which it brings forth, and summon

back from hell the Pelagian error.



      Who teach that what is involved in the new covenant of grace which God

the Father made with men through the intervening of Christ's death is not that

we are justified before God and saved through faith, insofar as it accepts

Christ's merit, but rather that God, having withdrawn his demand for perfect

obedience to the law, counts faith itself, and the imperfect obedience of

faith, as perfect obedience to the law, and graciously looks upon this as

worthy of the reward of eternal life.

      For they contradict Scripture: "They are justified freely by his grace

through the redemption that came by Jesus Christ, whom God presented as a

sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood" (Rom. 3:24-25). And along

with the ungodly Socinus, they introduce a new and foreign justification of

man before God, against the consensus of the whole church.



      Who teach that all people have been received into the state of

reconciliation and into the grace of the covenant, so that no one on account

of original sin is liable to condemnation, or is to be condemned, but that all

are free from the guilt of this sin.

      For this opinion conflicts with Scripture which asserts that we are by

nature children of wrath.



      Who make use of the distinction between obtaining and applying in order

to instill in the unwary and inexperienced the opinion that God, as far as he

is concerned, wished to bestow equally upon all people the benefits which are

gained by Christ's death; but that the distinction by which some rather than

others come to share in the forgiveness of sins and eternal life depends on

their own free choice (which applies itself to the grace offered

indiscriminately) but does not depend on the unique gift of mercy which

effectively works in them, so that they, rather than others, apply that grace

to themselves.

      For, while pretending to set forth this distinction in an acceptable

sense, they attempt to give the people the deadly poison of Pelagianism.


      Who teach that Christ neither could die, nor had to die, nor did die for

those whom God so dearly loved and chose to eternal life, since such people do

not need the death of Christ.

      For they contradict the apostle, who says: "Christ loved me and gave

himself up for me" (Gal. 2:20), and likewise: "Who will bring any charge

against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that

condemns? It is Christ who died," that is, for them (Rom. 8:33-34). They also

contradict the Savior, who asserts: "I lay down my life for the sheep" (John

10:15), and "My command is this: Love one another as I have loved you. Greater

love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends" (John

     The Third and Fourth Main Points of Doctrine


                     Human Corruption, Conversion to God,

                             and the Way It Occurs


Article 1: The Effect of the Fall on Human Nature

      Man was originally created in the image of God and was furnished in his

mind with a true and salutary knowledge of his Creator and things spiritual,

in his will and heart with righteousness, and in all his emotions with purity;

indeed, the whole man was holy. However, rebelling against God at the devil's

instigation and by his own free will, he deprived himself of these outstanding

gifts. Rather, in their place he brought upon himself blindness, terrible

darkness, futility, and distortion of judgment in his mind; perversity,

defiance, and hardness in his heart and will; and finally impurity in all his



Article 2: The Spread of Corruption

      Man brought forth children of the same nature as himself after the fall.

That is to say, being corrupt he brought forth corrupt children. The

corruption spread, by God's just judgment, from Adam to all his descendants—;

except for Christ alone—;not by way of imitation (as in former times the

Pelagians would have it) but by way of the propagation of his perverted



Article 3: Total Inability

      Therefore, all people are conceived in sin and are born children of

wrath, unfit for any saving good, inclined to evil, dead in their sins, and

slaves to sin; without the grace of the regenerating Holy Spirit they are

neither willing nor able to return to God, to reform their distorted nature,

or even to dispose themselves to such reform.


Article 4: The Inadequacy of the Light of Nature

      There is, to be sure, a certain light of nature remaining in man after

the fall, by virtue of which he retains some notions about God, natural

things, and the difference between what is moral and immoral, and demonstrates

a certain eagerness for virtue and for good outward behavior. But this light

of nature is far from enabling man to come to a saving knowledge of God and

conversion to him—;so far, in fact, that man does not use it rightly even in

matters of nature and society. Instead, in various ways he completely distorts

this light, whatever its precise character, and suppresses it in

unrighteousness. In doing so he renders himself without excuse before God.


Article 5: The Inadequacy of the Law

      In this respect, what is true of the light of nature is true also of the

Ten Commandments given by God through Moses specifically to the Jews. For man

cannot obtain saving grace through the Decalogue, because, although it does

expose the magnitude of his sin and increasingly convict him of his guilt, yet

it does not offer a remedy or enable him to escape from his misery, and,

indeed, weakened as it is by the flesh, leaves the offender under the curse.


Article 6: The Saving Power of the Gospel

      What, therefore, neither the light of nature nor the law can do, God

accomplishes by the power of the Holy Spirit, through the Word or the ministry

of reconciliation. This is the gospel about the Messiah, through which it has

pleased God to save believers, in both the Old and the New Testament.


Article 7: God's Freedom in Revealing the Gospel

      In the Old Testament, God revealed this secret of his will to a small

number; in the New Testament (now without any distinction between peoples) he

discloses it to a large number. The reason for this difference must not be

ascribed to the greater worth of one nation over another, or to a better use

of the light of nature, but to the free good pleasure and undeserved love of

God. Therefore, those who receive so much grace, beyond and in spite of all

they deserve, ought to acknowledge it with humble and thankful hearts; on the

other hand, with the apostle they ought to adore (but certainly not

inquisitively search into) the severity and justice of God's judgments on the

others, who do not receive this grace.


Article 8: The Serious Call of the Gospel

      Nevertheless, all who are called through the gospel are called

seriously. For seriously and most genuinely God makes known in his Word what

is pleasing to him: that those who are called should come to him. Seriously he

also promises rest for their souls and eternal life to all who come to him and



Article 9: Human Responsibility for Rejecting the Gospel

      The fact that many who are called through the ministry of the gospel do

not come and are not brought to conversion must not be blamed on the gospel,

nor on Christ, who is offered through the gospel, nor on God, who calls them

through the gospel and even bestows various gifts on them, but on the people

themselves who are called. Some in self-assurance do not even entertain the

Word of life; others do entertain it but do not take it to heart, and for that

reason, after the fleeting joy of a temporary faith, they relapse; others

choke the seed of the Word with the thorns of life's cares and with the

pleasures of the world and bring forth no fruits. This our Savior teaches in

the parable of the sower (Matt. 13).


Article 10: Conversion as the Work of God

      The fact that others who are called through the ministry of the gospel

do come and are brought to conversion must not be credited to man, as though

one distinguishes himself by free choice from others who are furnished with

equal or sufficient grace for faith and conversion (as the proud heresy of

Pelagius maintains). No, it must be credited to God: just as from eternity he

chose his own in Christ, so within time he effectively calls them, grants them

faith and repentance, and, having rescued them from the dominion of darkness,

brings them into the kingdom of his Son, in order that they may declare the

wonderful deeds of him who called them out of darkness into this marvelous

light, and may boast not in themselves, but in the Lord, as apostolic words

frequently testify in Scripture.


Article 11: The Holy Spirit's Work in Conversion

      Moreover, when God carries out this good pleasure in his chosen ones, or

works true conversion in them, he not only sees to it that the gospel is

proclaimed to them outwardly, and enlightens their minds powerfully by the

Holy Spirit so that they may rightly understand and discern the things of the

Spirit of God, but, by the effective operation of the same regenerating

Spirit, he also penetrates into the inmost being of man, opens the closed

heart, softens the hard heart, and circumcises the heart that is

uncircumcised. He infuses new qualities into the will, making the dead will

alive, the evil one good, the unwilling one willing, and the stubborn one

compliant; he activates and strengthens the will so that, like a good tree, it

may be enabled to produce the fruits of good deeds.


Article 12: Regeneration a Supernatural Work

      And this is the regeneration, the new creation, the raising from the

dead, and the making alive so clearly proclaimed in the Scriptures, which God

works in us without our help. But this certainly does not happen only by

outward teaching, by moral persuasion, or by such a way of working that, after

God has done his work, it remains in man's power whether or not to be reborn

or converted. Rather, it is an entirely supernatural work, one that is at the

same time most powerful and most pleasing, a marvelous, hidden, and

inexpressible work, which is not lesser than or inferior in power to that of

creation or of raising the dead, as Scripture (inspired by the author of this

work) teaches. As a result, all those in whose hearts God works in this

marvelous way are certainly, unfailingly, and effectively reborn and do

actually believe. And then the will, now renewed, is not only activated and

motivated by God but in being activated by God is also itself active. For this

reason, man himself, by that grace which he has received, is also rightly said

to believe and to repent.


Article 13: The Incomprehensible Way of Regeneration

      In this life believers cannot fully understand the way this work occurs;

meanwhile, they rest content with knowing and experiencing that by this grace

of God they do believe with the heart and love their Savior.


Article 14: The Way God Gives Faith

      In this way, therefore, faith is a gift of God, not in the sense that it

is offered by God for man to choose, but that it is in actual fact bestowed on

man, breathed and infused into him. Nor is it a gift in the sense that God

bestows only the potential to believe, but then awaits assent—;the act of

believing—;from man's choice; rather, it is a gift in the sense that he who

works both willing and acting and, indeed, works all things in all people

produces in man both the will to believe and the belief itself.


Article 15: Responses to God's Grace

      God does not owe this grace to anyone. For what could God owe to one who

has nothing to give that can be paid back? Indeed, what could God owe to one

who has nothing of his own to give but sin and falsehood? Therefore the person

who receives this grace owes and gives eternal thanks to God alone; the person

who does not receive it either does not care at all about these spiritual

things and is satisfied with himself in his condition, or else in

self-assurance foolishly boasts about having something which he lacks.

Furthermore, following the example of the apostles, we are to think and to

speak in the most favorable way about those who outwardly profess their faith

and better their lives, for the inner chambers of the heart are unknown to us.

But for others who have not yet been called, we are to pray to the God who

calls things that do not exist as though they did. In no way, however, are we

to pride ourselves as better than they, as though we had distinguished

ourselves from them.


Article 16: Regeneration's Effect

      However, just as by the fall man did not cease to be man, endowed with

intellect and will, and just as sin, which has spread through the whole human

race, did not abolish the nature of the human race but distorted and

spiritually killed it, so also this divine grace of regeneration does not act

in people as if they were blocks and stones; nor does it abolish the will and

its properties or coerce a reluctant will by force, but spiritually revives,

heals, reforms, and—;in a manner at once pleasing and powerful—;bends it back.

As a result, a ready and sincere obedience of the Spirit now begins to prevail

where before the rebellion and resistance of the flesh were completely

dominant. It is in this that the true and spiritual restoration and freedom of

our will consists. Thus, if the marvelous Maker of every good thing were not

dealing with us, man would have no hope of getting up from his fall by his

free choice, by which he plunged himself into ruin when still standing



Article 17: God's Use of Means in Regeneration

      Just as the almighty work of God by which he brings forth and sustains

our natural life does not rule out but requires the use of means, by which

God, according to his infinite wisdom and goodness, has wished to exercise his

power, so also the aforementioned supernatural work of God by which he

regenerates us in no way rules out or cancels the use of the gospel, which God

in his great wisdom has appointed to be the seed of regeneration and the food

of the soul. For this reason, the apostles and the teachers who followed them

taught the people in a godly manner about this grace of God, to give him the

glory and to humble all pride, and yet did not neglect meanwhile to keep the

people, by means of the holy admonitions of the gospel, under the

administration of the Word, the sacraments, and discipline. So even today it

is out of the question that the teachers or those taught in the church should

presume to test God by separating what he in his good pleasure has wished to

be closely joined together. For grace is bestowed through admonitions, and the

more readily we perform our duty, the more lustrous the benefit of God working

in us usually is and the better his work advances. To him alone, both for the

means and for their saving fruit and effectiveness, all glory is owed forever.



                            Rejection of the Errors


      Having set forth the orthodox teaching, the Synod rejects the errors of




      Who teach that, properly speaking, it cannot be said that original sin

in itself is enough to condemn the whole human race or to warrant temporal and

eternal punishments.

      For they contradict the apostle when he says: "Sin entered the world

through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death passed on to all

men because all sinned" (Rom. 5:12); also: "The guilt followed one sin and

brought condemnation" (Rom. 5:16); likewise: "The wages of sin is death" (Rom.




      Who teach that the spiritual gifts or the good dispositions and virtues

such as goodness, holiness, and righteousness could not have resided in man's

will when he was first created, and therefore could not have been separated

from the will at the fall.

      For this conflicts with the apostle's description of the image of God in

Ephesians 4:24, where he portrays the image in terms of righteousness and

holiness, which definitely reside in the will.



      Who teach that in spiritual death the spiritual gifts have not been

separated from man's will, since the will in itself has never been corrupted

but only hindered by the darkness of the mind and the unruliness of the

emotions, and since the will is able to exercise its innate free capacity once

these hindrances are removed, which is to say, it is able of itself to will or

choose whatever good is set before it—;or else not to will or choose it.

      This is a novel idea and an error and has the effect of elevating the

power of free choice, contrary to the words of Jeremiah the prophet: "The

heart itself is deceitful above all things and wicked" (Jer. 17:9); and of the

words of the apostle: "All of us also lived among them" (the sons of

disobedience) "at one time in the passions of our flesh, following the will of

our flesh and thoughts" (Eph. 2:3).



      Who teach that unregenerate man is not strictly or totally dead in his

sins or deprived of all capacity for spiritual good but is able to hunger and

thirst for righteousness or life and to offer the sacrifice of a broken and

contrite spirit which is pleasing to God.

      For these views are opposed to the plain testimonies of Scripture: "You

were dead in your transgressions and sins" (Eph. 2:1, 5); "The imagination of

the thoughts of man's heart is only evil all the time" (Gen. 6:5; 8:21).

Besides, to hunger and thirst for deliverance from misery and for life, and to

offer God the sacrifice of a broken spirit is characteristic only of the

regenerate and of those called blessed (Ps. 51:17; Matt. 5:6).



      Who teach that corrupt and natural man can make such good use of common

grace(by which they mean the light of nature)or of the gifts remaining after

the fall that he is able thereby gradually to obtain a greater grace—;

evangelical or saving grace—;as well as salvation itself; and that in this way

God, for his part, shows himself ready to reveal Christ to all people, since

he provides to all, to a sufficient extent and in an effective manner, the

means necessary for the revealing of Christ, for faith, and for repentance.

      For Scripture, not to mention the experience of all ages, testifies that

this is false: "He makes known his words to Jacob, his statutes and his laws

to Israel; he has done this for no other nation, and they do not know his

laws" (Ps. 147:19-20); "In the past God let all nations go their own way"

(Acts 14:16); "They" (Paul and his companions)" were kept by the Holy Spirit

from speaking God's word in Asia;" and "When they had come to Mysia, they

tried to go to Bithynia, but the Spirit would not allow them to" (Acts




      Who teach that in the true conversion of man new qualities,

dispositions, or gifts cannot be infused or poured into his will by God, and

indeed that the faith [or believing] by which we first come to conversion and

from which we receive the name "believers" is not a quality or gift infused by

God, but only an act of man, and that it cannot be called a gift except in

respect to the power of attaining faith.

      For these views contradict the Holy Scriptures, which testify that God

does infuse or pour into our hearts the new qualities of faith, obedience, and

the experiencing of his love: "I will put my law in their minds, and write it

on their hearts" (Jer. 31:33); "I will pour water on the thirsty land, and

streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring" (Isa.

44:3); "The love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit,

who has been given to us" (Rom. 5:5). They also conflict with the continuous

practice of the Church, which prays with the prophet: "Convert me, Lord, and I

shall be converted" (Jer. 31:18).



      Who teach that the grace by which we are converted to God is nothing but

a gentle persuasion, or(as others explain it) that the way of God's acting in

man's conversion that is most noble and suited to human nature is that which

happens by persuasion, and that nothing prevents this grace of moral suasion

even by itself from making natural men spiritual; indeed, that God does not

produce the assent of the will except in this manner of moral suasion, and

that the effectiveness of God's work by which it surpasses the work of Satan

consists in the fact that God promises eternal benefits while Satan promises

temporal ones.

      For this teaching is entirely Pelagian and contrary to the whole of

Scripture, which recognizes besides this persuasion also another, far more

effective and divine way in which the Holy Spirit acts in man's conversion. As

Ezekiel 36:26 puts it: "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in

you; and I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh...."



      Who teach that God in regenerating man does not bring to bear that power

of his omnipotence whereby he may powerfully and unfailingly bend man's will

to faith and conversion, but that even when God has accomplished all the works

of grace which he uses for man's conversion, man nevertheless can, and in

actual fact often does, so resist God and the Spirit in their intent and will

to regenerate him, that man completely thwarts his own rebirth; and, indeed,

that it remains in his own power whether or not to be reborn.

      For this does away with all effective functioning of God's grace in our

conversion and subjects the activity of Almighty God to the will of man; it is

contrary to the apostles, who teach that "we believe by virtue of the

effective working of God's mighty strength" (Eph. 1:19), and that "God

fulfills the undeserved good will of his kindness and the work of faith in us

with power" (2 Thess. 1:11), and likewise that "his divine power has given us

everything we need for life and godliness" (2 Pet. 1:3).



      Who teach that grace and free choice are concurrent partial causes which

cooperate to initiate conversion, and that grace does not precede—;in the

order of causality—;the effective influence of the will;that is to say,that

God does not effectively help man's will to come to conversion before man's

will itself motivates and determines itself.

      For the early church already condemned this doctrine long ago in the

Pelagians, on the basis of the words of the apostle: "It does not depend on

man's willing or running but on God's mercy" (Rom. 9:16); also: "Who makes you

different from anyone else?" and "What do you have that you did not receive?"

(1 Cor. 4:7); likewise: "It is God who works in you to will and act according

to his good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13).

                      The Fifth Main Point of Doctrine


                        The Perseverance of the Saints


Article 1: The Regenerate Not Entirely Free from Sin

      Those people whom God according to his purpose calls into fellowship

with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord and regenerates by the Holy Spirit, he also

sets free from the reign and slavery of sin, though in this life not entirely

from the flesh and from the body of sin.


Article 2: The Believer's Reaction to Sins of Weakness

      Hence daily sins of weakness arise, and blemishes cling to even the best

works of God's people, giving them continual cause to humble themselves before

God, to flee for refuge to Christ crucified, to put the flesh to death more

and more by the Spirit of supplication and by holy exercises of godliness, and

to strain toward the goal of perfection, until they are freed from this body

of death and reign with the Lamb of God in heaven.


Article 3: God's Preservation of the Converted

      Because of these remnants of sin dwelling in them and also because of

the temptations of the world and Satan, those who have been converted could

not remain standing in this grace if left to their own resources. But God is

faithful, mercifully strengthening them in the grace once conferred on them

and powerfully preserving them in it to the end.


Article 4: The Danger of True Believers' Falling into Serious Sins

      Although that power of God strengthening and preserving true believers

in grace is more than a match for the flesh, yet those converted are not

always so activated and motivated by God that in certain specific actions they

cannot by their own fault depart from the leading of grace, be led astray by

the desires of the flesh, and give in to them. For this reason they must

constantly watch and pray that they may not be led into temptations. When they

fail to do this, not onlycan they be carried away by the flesh, the world, and

Satan into sins, even serious and outrageous ones, but also by God's just

permission they sometimesare so carried away—;witness the sad cases, described

in Scripture, of David, Peter, and other saints falling into sins.


Article 5: The Effects of Such Serious Sins

      By such monstrous sins, however, they greatly offend God, deserve the

sentence of death, grieve the Holy Spirit, suspend the exercise of faith,

severely wound the conscience, and sometimes lose the awareness of grace for a

time—;until, after they have returned to the way by genuine repentance, God's

fatherly face again shines upon them.


Article 6: God's Saving Intervention

      For God, who is rich in mercy, according to his unchangeable purpose of

election does not take his Holy Spirit from his own completely, even when they

fall grievously. Neither does he let them fall down so far that they forfeit

the grace of adoption and the state of justification, or commit the sin which

leads to death (the sin against the Holy Spirit), and plunge themselves,

entirely forsaken by him, into eternal ruin.


Article 7: Renewal to Repentance

      For, in the first place, God preserves in those saints when they fall

his imperishable seed from which they have been born again, lest it perish or

be dislodged. Secondly, by his Word and Spirit he certainly and effectively

renews them to repentance so that they have a heartfelt and godly sorrow for

the sins they have committed; seek and obtain, through faith and with a

contrite heart, forgiveness in the blood of the Mediator; experience again the

grace of a reconciled God; through faith adore his mercies; and from then on

more eagerly work out their own salvation with fear and trembling.


Article 8: The Certainty of This Preservation

      So it is not by their own merits or strength but by God's undeserved

mercy that they neither forfeit faith and grace totally nor remain in their

downfalls to the end and are lost. With respect to themselves this not only

easily could happen, but also undoubtedly would happen; but with respect to

God it cannot possibly happen, since his plan cannot be changed, his promise

cannot fail, the calling according to his purpose cannot be revoked, the merit

of Christ as well as his interceding and preserving cannot be nullified, and

the sealing of the Holy Spirit can neither be invalidated nor wiped out.


Article 9: The Assurance of This Preservation

      Concerning this preservation of those chosen to salvation and concerning

the perseverance of true believers in faith, believers themselves can and do

become assured in accordance with the measure of their faith, by which they

firmly believe that they are and always will remain true and living members of

the church, and that they have the forgiveness of sins and eternal life.


Article 10: The Ground of This Assurance

      Accordingly, this assurance does not derive from some private revelation

beyond or outside the Word, but from faith in the promises of God which he has

very plentifully revealed in his Word for our comfort, from the testimony of

"the Holy Spirit testifying with our spirit that we are God's children and

heirs" (Rom. 8:16-17), and finally from a serious and holy pursuit of a clear

conscience and of good works. And if God's chosen ones in this world did not

have this well-founded comfort that the victory will be theirs and this

reliable guarantee of eternal glory, they would be of all people most



Article 11: Doubts Concerning This Assurance

      Meanwhile, Scripture testifies that believers have to contend in this

life with various doubts of the flesh and that under severe temptation they do

not always experience this full assurance of faith and certainty of

perseverance. But God, the Father of all comfort, "does not let them be

tempted beyond what they can bear, but with the temptation he also provides a

way out" (1 Cor. 10:13), and by the Holy Spirit revives in them the assurance

of their perseverance.


Article 12: This Assurance as an Incentive to Godliness

      This assurance of perseverance, however, so far from making true

believers proud and carnally self-assured, is rather the true root of

humility, of childlike respect, of genuine godliness, of endurance in every

conflict, of fervent prayers, of steadfastness in crossbearing and in

confessing the truth, and of well-founded joy in God. Reflecting on this

benefit provides an incentive to a serious and continual practice of

thanksgiving and good works, as is evident from the testimonies of Scripture

and the examples of the saints.

Article 13: Assurance No Inducement to Carelessness

      Neither does the renewed confidence of perseverance produce immorality

or lack of concern for godliness in those put back on their feet after a fall,

but it produces a much greater concern to observe carefully the ways of the

Lord which he prepared in advance. They observe these ways in order that by

walking in them they may maintain the assurance of their perseverance, lest,

by their abuse of his fatherly goodness, the face of the gracious God (for the

godly, looking upon his face is sweeter than life, but its withdrawal is more

bitter than death) turn away from them again, with the result that they fall

into greater anguish of spirit.


Article 14: God's Use of Means in Perseverance

      And, just as it has pleased God to begin this work of grace in us by the

proclamation of the gospel, so he preserves, continues, and completes his work

by the hearing and reading of the gospel, by meditation on it, by its

exhortations, threats, and promises, and also by the use of the sacraments.


Article 15: Contrasting Reactions to the Teaching of Perseverance

      This teaching about the perseverance of true believers and saints, and

about their assurance of it—;a teaching which God has very richly revealed in

his Word for the glory of his name and for the comfort of the godly and which

he impresses on the hearts of believers—;is something which the flesh does not

understand, Satan hates, the world ridicules, the ignorant and the hypocrites

abuse, and the spirits of error attack. The bride of Christ, on the other

hand, has always loved this teaching very tenderly and defended it steadfastly

as a priceless treasure; and God, against whom no plan can avail and no

strength can prevail, will ensure that she will continue to do this. To this

God alone, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, be honor and glory forever. Amen.


                            Rejection of the Errors

                          Concerning the Teaching of

                        the Perseverance of the Saints


      Having set forth the orthodox teaching, the Synod rejects the errors of




      Who teach that the perseverance of true believers is not an effect of

election or a gift of God produced by Christ's death, but a condition of the

new covenant which man, beforewhat they callhis "peremptory" election and

justification, must fulfill by his free will.

      For Holy Scripture testifies that perseverance follows from election and

is granted to the chosen by virtue of Christ's death, resurrection, and

intercession: "The chosen obtained it; the others were hardened" (Rom. 11:7);

likewise, "He who did not spare his own son, but gave him up for us all—;how

will he not, along with him, grant us all things? Who will bring any charge

against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that

condemns? It is Christ Jesus who died—;more than that, who was raised—;who

also sits at the right hand of God, and is also interceding for us. Who shall

separate us from the love of Christ?" (Rom. 8:32-35).



      Who teach that God does provide the believer with sufficient strength to

persevere and is ready to preserve this strength in him if he performs his

duty, but that even with all those things in place which are necessary to

persevere in faith and which God is pleased to use to preserve faith, it still

always depends on the choice of man's will whether or not he perseveres.

      For this view is obviously Pelagian; and though it intends to make men

free it makes them sacrilegious. It is against the enduring consensus of

evangelical teaching which takes from man all cause for boasting and ascribes

the praise for this benefit only to God's grace. It is also against the

testimony of the apostle: "It is God who keeps us strong to the end, so that

we will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Cor. 1:8).



      Who teach that those who truly believe and have been born again not only

can forfeit justifying faith as well as grace and salvation totally and to the

end, but also in actual fact do often forfeit them and are lost forever.

      For this opinion nullifies the very grace of justification and

regeneration as well as the continual preservation by Christ, contrary to the

plain words of the apostle Paul: "If Christ died for us while we were still

sinners, we will therefore much more be saved from God's wrath through him,

since we have now been justified by his blood" (Rom. 5:8-9); and contrary to

the apostle John: "No one who is born of God is intent on sin, because God's

seed remains in him, nor can he sin, because he has been born of God" (1 John

3:9); also contrary to the words of Jesus Christ: "I give eternal life to my

sheep, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My

Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them

out of my Father's hand" (John 10: 28-29).



      Who teach that those who truly believe and have been born again can

commit the sin that leads to death (the sin against the Holy Spirit).

      For the same apostle John, after making mention of those who commit the

sin that leads to death and forbidding prayer for them (1 John 5: 16-17),

immediately adds: "We know that anyone born of God does not commit sin" (that

is, that kind of sin), "but the one who was born of God keeps himself safe,

and the evil one does not touch him" (v. 18).



      Who teach that apart from a special revelation no one can have the

assurance of future perseverance in this life.

      For by this teaching the well-founded consolation of true believers in

this life is taken away and the doubting of the Romanists is reintroduced into

the church. Holy Scripture, however, in many places derives the assurance not

from a special and extraordinary revelation but from the marks peculiar to

God's children and from God's completely reliable promises. So especially the

apostle Paul: "Nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God

that is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 8:39); and John: "They who obey his

commands remain in him and he in them. And this is how we know that he remains

in us: by the Spirit he gave us" (1 John 3:24).



      Who teach that the teaching of the assurance of perseverance and of

salvation is by its very nature and character an opiate of the flesh and is

harmful to godliness, good morals, prayer, and other holy exercises, but that,

on the contrary, to have doubt about this is praiseworthy.

      For these people show that they do not know the effective operation of

God's grace and the work of the indwelling Holy Spirit, and they contradict

the apostle John, who asserts the opposite in plain words: "Dear friends, now

we are children of God, but what we will be has not yet been made known. But

we know that when he is made known, we shall be like him, for we shall see him

as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is

pure" (1 John 3:2-3). Moreover, they are refuted by the examples of the saints

in both the Old and the New Testament, who though assured of their

perseverance and salvation yet were constant in prayer and other exercises of




      Who teach that the faith of those who believe only temporarily does not

differ from justifying and saving faith except in duration alone.

      For Christ himself in Matthew 13:20ff. and Luke 8:13ff. clearly defines

these further differences between temporary and true believers: he says that

the former receive the seed on rocky ground, and the latter receive it in good

ground, or a good heart; the former have no root, and the latter are firmly

rooted; the former have no fruit, and the latter produce fruit in varying

measure, with steadfastness, or perseverance.



      Who teach that it is not absurd that a person, after losing his former

regeneration, should once again, indeed quite often, be reborn.

      For by this teaching they deny the imperishable nature of God's seed by

which we are born again, contrary to the testimony of the apostle Peter: "Born

again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable" (1 Pet. 1:23).



      Who teach that Christ nowhere prayed for an unfailing perseverance of

believers in faith.

      For they contradict Christ himself when he says: "I have prayed for you,

Peter, that your faith may not fail" (Luke 22:32); and John the gospel writer

when he testifies in John 17 that it was not only for the apostles, but also

for all those who were to believe by their message that Christ prayed: "Holy

Father, preserve them in your name" (v. 11); and "My prayer is not that you

take them out of the world, but that you preserve them from the evil one" (v.





                        Rejection of False Accusations


      And so this is the clear, simple, and straightforward explanation of the

orthodox teaching on the five articles in dispute in the Netherlands, as well

as the rejection of the errors by which the Dutch churches have for some time

been disturbed. This explanation and rejection the Synod declares to be

derived from God's Word and in agreement with the confessions of the Reformed

churches. Hence it clearly appears that those of whom one could hardly expect

it have shown no truth, equity, and charity at all in wishing to make the

public believe:

      ;that the teaching of the Reformed churches on predestination and on

      the points associated with it by its very nature and tendency draws the

      minds of people away from all godliness and religion, is an opiate of

      the flesh and the devil, and is a stronghold of Satan where he lies in

      wait for all people, wounds most of them, and fatally pierces many of

      them with the arrows of both despair and self-assurance;

      ;that this teaching makes God the author of sin, unjust, a tyrant, and

      a hypocrite; and is nothing but a refurbished Stoicism, Manicheism,

      Libertinism, and Mohammedanism;

      ;that this teaching makes people carnally self-assured, since it

      persuades them that nothing endangers the salvation of the chosen, no

      matter how they live, so that they may commit the most outrageous crimes

      with self-assurance; and that on the other hand nothing is of use to the

      reprobate for salvation even if they have truly performed all the works

      of the saints;

      ;that this teaching means that God predestined and created, by the bare

      and unqualified choice of his will, without the least regard or

      consideration of any sin, the greatest part of the world to eternal

      condemnation; that in the same manner in which election is the source

      and cause of faith and good works, reprobation is the cause of unbelief

      and ungodliness; that many infant children of believers are snatched in

      their innocence from their mothers' breasts and cruelly cast into hell

      so that neither the blood of Christ nor their baptism nor the prayers of

      the church at their baptism can be of any use to them; and very many

      other slanderous accusations of this kind which the Reformed churches

      not only disavow but even denounce with their whole heart.

      Therefore this Synod of Dort in the name of the Lord pleads with all who

devoutly call on the name of our Savior Jesus Christ to form their judgment

about the faith of the Reformed churches, not on the basis of false

accusations gathered from here or there, or even on the basis of the personal

statements of a number of ancient and modern authorities—;statements which are

also often either quoted out of context or misquoted and twisted to convey a

different meaning—;but on the basis of the churches' own official confessions

and of the present explanation of the orthodox teaching which has been

endorsed by the unanimous consent of the members of the whole Synod, one and


      Moreover, the Synod earnestly warns the false accusers themselves to

consider how heavy a judgment of God awaits those who give false testimony

against so many churches and their confessions, trouble the consciences of the

weak, and seek to prejudice the minds of many against the fellowship of true


      Finally, this Synod urges all fellow ministers in the gospel of Christ

to deal with this teaching in a godly and reverent manner, in the academic

institutions as well as in the churches; to do so, both in their speaking and

writing, with a view to the glory of God's name, holiness of life, and the

comfort of anxious souls; to think and also speak with Scripture according to

the analogy of faith; and, finally, to refrain from all those ways of speaking

which go beyond the bounds set for us by the genuine sense of the Holy

Scriptures and which could give impertinent sophists a just occasion to scoff

at the teaching of the Reformed churches or even to bring false accusations

against it.

      May God's Son Jesus Christ, who sits at the right hand of God and gives

gifts to men, sanctify us in the truth, lead to the truth those who err,

silence the mouths of those who lay false accusations against sound teaching,

and equip faithful ministers of his Word with a spirit of wisdom and

discretion, that all they say may be to the glory of God and the building up

of their hearers. Amen.