Is God completely sovereign in man’s salvation?
I am continually asked questions concerning the sovereignty (complete rule and control) of God in salvation. Whether it’s about election, predestination, Christ’s death on the cross, the grace of God in bringing people to faith in Jesus, whether or not people who have been saved can “lose” their salvation, as well as many other things. I believe that most of these questions are answered clearly in Scripture and these people would find the answers they were looking for if they would but study and pray to understand the Bible through what have come to be known as The Doctrines of Grace or the Five Points of Calvinism. Yes, I said the word Calvinism. Don’t run away so easily.
In response to all of these questions, I have decided to publish several blogposts over the next few months in hopes of all of us coming to a more full and wiser understanding of God’s grace as revealed in Scripture. I believe that if you come to understand what the Bible says about God’s sovereign grace in salvation you will be guarded from distorting the gospel and your love for Jesus and service to Jesus will increase, as will your joy and satisfaction in him.
Before automatically being turned off because I said the word Calvinism, consider all of these authors and pastors that would be considered five-point-Calvinists: John Piper, Tim Keller, Matt Chandler, David Platt, Francis Chan, John MacArthur, R.C. Sproul, J.I. Packer, Martin Luther, John Owen, Charles Spurgeon, and Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones. As you can see, you’ve got Baptists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Anglicans, and even some non-denominational guys both past and present.
I am not trying to convince you to believe something merely because other people believe it. That would be stupid of me. I simply want you to consider the fact that these guys are not cuckoo and they believe in the Doctrines of Grace (the five points of Calvinism).
Why do I personally believe The Doctrines of Grace are true?
My answer is this: because I believe that, beyond a shadow of a doubt, The Doctrines of Grace summarize what God himself reveals to us in the Bible about His sovereign grace in the salvation of man. I believe the Bible is God’s divinely inspired word, and as a Christian, I accept what it says and bow to it, even if things in it are very hard to understand or even like (at first). This will not be an easy road for some of you; but when has the easy road been the right road?
I dare you to keep an open mind and to remember that God himself says in Isaiah 55:8-9,
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
The following is historical information of The Doctrines of Grace (five points of Calvinism) from a post by Desiring God.
John Calvin, the famous theologian and pastor of Geneva, died in 1564. Along with Martin Luther in Germany, he was the most influential force of the Protestant Reformation. His Commentaries and Institutes of the Christian Religion are still exerting tremendous influence on the Christian Church worldwide.
The churches which have inherited the teachings of Calvin are usually called Reformed as opposed to the Lutheran or Episcopalian branches of the Reformation. While not all Baptist churches hold to a reformed theology, there is a significant Baptist tradition which grew out of and still cherishes the central doctrines inherited from the reformed branch of the Reformation.
Calvin and Arminius
The controversy between Arminianism and Calvinism arose in Holland in the early 1600’s. The founder of the Arminian party was Jacob Arminius (1560-1609). He studied under the strict Calvinist Theodore Beza at Geneva and became a professor of theology at the University of Leyden in 1603.
Gradually Arminius came to reject certain Calvinist teachings. The controversy spread all over Holland, where the Reformed Church was the overwhelming majority. The Arminians drew up their creed in Five Articles (written by Uytenbogaert), and laid them before the state authorities of Holland in 1610 under the name Remonstrance, signed by forty-six ministers. (These Five Articles can be read in Philip Schaff, Creeds of Christendom, vol. 3, pp. 545-547.)
The Calvinists responded with a Counter-Remonstrance. But the official Calvinistic response came from the Synod of Dort which was held to consider the Five Articles from November 13, 1618 to May 9, 1619. There were eighty-four members and eighteen secular commissioners. The Synod wrote what has come to be known as the Canons of Dort. These are still part of the church confession of the Reformed Church in America and the Christian Reformed Church. They state the Five Points of Calvinism in response to the Five Articles of the Arminian Remonstrants. (See Schaff, vol. 3, pp. 581-596).
So the so-called Five Points (known as The Doctrines of Grace) were not chosen by the Calvinists as a summary of their teaching. They emerged as a response to the Arminians who chose these five points to oppose.
The Doctrines of Grace (Five Points)
It is more important to give a positive Biblical position on the the Doctrines of Grace (Five Points) than to know the exact form of the original controversy. These five points are still at the heart of Biblical theology. They are not unimportant. Where we stand on these things deeply affects our view of God, man, salvation, the atonement, regeneration, assurance, worship, and missions.
Somewhere along the way the five points came to be summarized under the acronym TULIP.
P-Perseverance of the saint
NOTE: We are not going to follow this order in our presentation. There is a good rationale for this traditional order: it starts with man in need of salvation and then gives, in the order of their occurrence, the steps God takes to save his people. He elects, then he sends Christ to atone for the sins of the elect, then he irresistibly draws his people to faith, and finally works to cause them to persevere to the end.
We have found, however, that people grasp these points more easily if we follow a presentation based on the order in which we experience them.
- We experience first our depravity and need of salvation.
- Then we experience the irresistible grace of God leading us toward faith.
- Then we trust the sufficiency of the atoning death of Christ for our sins.
- Then we discover that behind the work of God to atone for our sins and bring us to faith was the unconditional election of God.
- And finally we rest in his electing grace to give us the strength and will to persevere to the end in faith.This is the order we will follow in our presentation.
(END OF POST FROM JOHN PIPER AND DESIRING GOD)
I worship Jesus, not John Calvin
I am posting this because I would like to, with the help of scholars vast beyond my wisdom, spell out what we at Ekklesia believe the Scripture teaches on these five points. Our great desire is to glorify God by understanding and believing his truth as revealed in Scripture. We are open to changing any of our ideas which can be shown to contradict the truth of Scripture. We do not have any vested interest in John Calvin himself, but in Jesus and in the God inspired Word, and we find some of what Calvin taught to be wrong. But in general we are willing to let ourselves be called Calvinists on the five points, because we find the Calvinist position to be Biblical.
I share the sentiments of Jonathan Edwards who said in the Preface to his great book on The Freedom Of The Will, “I should not take it at all amiss, to be called a Calvinist, for distinction’s sake: though I utterly disclaim a dependence on Calvin, or believing the doctrines which I hold, because he believed and taught them; and cannot justly be charged with believing in every thing just as he taught.”
I worship Jesus, not John Calvin. But I thank Jesus that he used John Calvin to teach the Bible in a powerful, instructive, concise, reasonable, and God-gloryfing way.
Always seeking your joy in Jesus,