Why I Love the Doctrines of Grace
Please allow me to introduce Christina Langella to you and her blog Heavenly Springs. Though we speak the same English language, being from Brooklyn, New York, her accent is about as far removed from mine as is humanly possible. Fugheddabout it! Her love for the Lord is both heart warming and contagious. She is also a very gifted communicator, as you will see (below).
So often we present truth with fervent zeal, but those we are seeking to minister to have not yet seen the reason why the truth we share is important, nor have they fathomed anything of the practical benefits of the teaching under discussion. In other words, they have not yet comprehended the reason why they should take the time to try to understand what is being communicated. I think Christina remedies that exceptionally well in the following article, which was part of a larger series on the internet. I believe you will be blessed to read this, just as I was. - John S
WHY I LOVE THE DOCTRINES OF GRACE
In the first post of this series, sister Norma discussed the importance of studying doctrine. Doctrine, she explained, is not just for the seminarian, the professor, the pastor, or the missionary. It is rather, the responsibility of every person who wears the name of Christ.
The title of our series, â€œDoctrines in the Kitchenâ€ reminds us of the very practical nature of the Word of God. It confirms that our faith encompasses the whole of our being and affects every sphere of our life â€“ both public and private.
A.W. Pink, in his book, Practical Christianity explains it nicely. â€œSome of us are single, others married; some are children, others parents; some are masters, others servants. Scripture supplies definite precepts and rules, motives and encouragement for each alike. It not only teaches us how we are to behave in the church and in the home, but equally so in the workshop and in the kitchenâ€¦â€
As someone who embraces Reformed/Calvinistic Theology, I point to the doctrines of grace, also known as the five points of Calvinism, as the system of theology that has put me on the most solid theological footing ever.
Calvinism, in and of itself, is not the Gospel, however when these doctrines come together they provide the theological framework for what is the gospel. In the gospel God saves totally depraved sinners, He chooses them unconditionally, He draws them irresistibly, and He preserves them until the end. If you remove one of these pillars then you will have succeeded in diminishing the gospel.
While the doctrines of grace are rightly associated with John Calvin, and the Reformers, the truth is that these doctrines are woven all throughout the pages of Scripture. We see them in the Psalms, they were taught by Jesus himself, and were further upheld by the apostle Paul in Romans and Ephesians, to name just a couple of books.
I find myself in good company when I concur with the sentiments of Charles Spurgeon who said, â€œThere is no soul living who holds more firmly to the doctrines of grace than I do, and if any man asks me whether I am ashamed to be called a Calvinist, I answerâ€”I wish to be called nothing but a Christian; but if you ask me, do I hold the doctrinal views which were held by John Calvin, I reply, I do in the main hold them, and rejoice to avow it.â€
So, what is a Calvinist? Once again, I will let the Prince of Preachers answer that: â€œHe is one who says, "Salvation is of the Lord."
My primary purpose in this post is not so much to explain, or even make a defense (although I welcome the opportunity) for these doctrines. My purpose is to share briefly with you why I have come to cherish them so. It is my prayer that you, too, will come to treasure these precious doctrines that not only changed my life, but daily transform me into the image of my Savior.
Although I had been serving the Lord for many years before God opened my eyes to these doctrines I was, in many ways, like the â€œinfantâ€ that Paul speaks of in Ephesians 4:14 who is â€œtossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrineâ€. Today that is no longer the case. My feet rest on level ground and I stand on the firm and solid rock of Godâ€™s Word.
As many of you are already aware, the doctrines of grace are most commonly associated with the acrostic TULIP. Let us briefly touch upon each of these doctrines that, when joined together, form the basic framework or structure for Godâ€™s great plan of salvation for sinners!
Total Depravity: I used to think that I was a good Christian with a few problems here and there. The scriptures tell a different story. In fact, not only do they confirm a few problems, they make clear I am the problem! The doctrine of total depravity teaches that as a consequence of â€œThe Fallâ€ every aspect of our being has been infected by sin. Even our seemingly good and honorable actions cannot be understood apart from the context of a will that is in bondage to sin. Did you know that even the ability to even respond in faith to the gospel is a gift of grace? It was not until I began to understand my own depravity that I could start apprehending the grace and mercy of God. In this doctrine God has demolished and utterly obliterated any possibility of boasting. Salvation is of the Lord!
Unconditional Election: Many of us think that we found God because we were searching. As lovely as this may sound, this thinking doesnâ€™t square with scripture. If any of us are ever searching for Truth, we can be sure that it is the power of God at work in us and certainly nothing of our own. John Newton, author of Amazing Grace said it best. â€œAh! Sir,â€ he said, â€œThe Lord must have loved me before I was born, or else He would not have seen anything in me to love afterwards.â€ The doctrine of unconditional election teaches that God elected us unto salvation before the foundation of the world. God chose us before we ever did anything good or bad. He did this because He is sovereign and He has declared, â€œI will have mercy on whom I have mercyâ€ (Romans 9:15). Why, in eternity past, He ordained that I should be an object of mercy and not wrath, I will never know. All I know is that it humbles me to the dust. Salvation is of the Lord!
Limited Atonement: Jesus did not die on the cross so that I would merely have the opportunity to one day be saved. He did not die on the cross to make my salvation merely possible. He did far more than that! As C. H. Spurgeon said, "The doctrine of Holy Scripture is this, that inasmuch as man could not keep God's law, having fallen in Adam, Christ came and fulfilled the law on the behalf of his people; and that inasmuch as man had already broken the divine law and incurred the penalty of the wrath of God, Christ came and suffered in the room, place, and stead of his elect ones, that so by his enduring the full vials of wrath, they might be emptied out and not a drop might ever fall upon the heads of his blood-bought people." (Sermon 310 - "Christ our Substitute - New Park Street, Southwark). What does that mean? It means that when Jesus said, â€œIt is finished!â€ (John 19:30), he meant exactly that. We can add nothing to his finished work. Salvation is of the Lord!
Irresistible Grace: I have heard it said somewhere that the only ones who donâ€™t get what they want are Christians! Oh, how I bless God for that! The doctrine of irresistible grace teaches that all those who have been predestined for eternal life will come freely because they have been made willing by His grace. John Piper says it like this, â€œWhat the sovereignty of grace and the sovereignty of the Spirit mean is that when God chooses, he can overcome the rebellion and resistance of our wills. He can make Christ look so compelling that our resistance is broken and we freely come to him and receive him and believe him."
Because it is Godâ€™s almighty power at work, and not my own, I can be sure that the grace of God unto salvation in my life will not be without effect. Salvation is of the Lord!
Perseverance of the Saints: Of the five doctrines of grace, this one has proven to be the most stabilizing. This doctrine teaches that if God redeemed us then He will keep us! The great Puritan William Secker said it well, "Though Christians be not kept altogether from falling, yet they are kept from falling altogether." Yes, various kinds of troubles and temptations will come but this our confidence: â€œhe who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christâ€ (Philippians 1:6). Our perseverance does not depend on our good works but on God who never changes and who is faithful! Isnâ€™t that good news? Salvation is of the Lord!
Do you see how these doctrines teach that God is sovereign over our salvation? Do you see how they exalt Christ and dethrone man? Pastor John Samson of King's Church, Phoenix, and writer at reformationtheology.com and of his own blog at effectualgrace.com, captures the simple and elegant glory of these great doctrines. He writes, â€œGrace at the start, grace to the end, grace in the middle, grace without fail, grace without mixture, grace without addition, grace that allows no boasting, grace that precludes all glorying but in the Lord.â€ Isnâ€™t that beautiful? It is, in every sense of the word, at all time, in all places, all of grace.
There was a time when embedded deep within my theology, was the proud and lofty notion that there was something inherently good in me that merited salvation. Maybe He saw my â€œheartâ€ or perhaps He saw me â€œsearching.â€ Subsequent to salvation there was the sense that if I wanted to maintain His pleasure my efforts and my performance were what mattered most. If thatâ€™s not a terrifying thought, I donâ€™t know what is! Not only does such thinking lend to an unstable and schizophrenic kind of Christian experience, but it is an absolute affront to the sovereignty and grace of an almighty God!
Today, I can look back, even upon my darkest days, and see the sovereign hand of God at work. The sovereignty of God encompasses everything that comes to pass -- including sin. These precious doctrines assure me that there was never a time when I was outside of the perfect knowledge and will of God for my life. Even if my deliverance from error to truth took longer than I would have liked, I know that even that is of the Lord. If He kept my eyes closed for as long as He did, well, then it was for His sovereign and gracious purposes, and I can say that it is good.
The journey has not always been easy. He has taken every idol in my â€œChristianâ€ world and smashed it to smithereens. What has been left in the aftermath â€“ what has been left in the wake of all of this ripping and demolishing is nothing but the cross of my crucified Savior.
It is my prayer that you too, will come to know and fall in love with these beautiful doctrines that, when brought together, point to one gracious and glorious truth: Salvation is of the Lord!
â€œFor by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,â€ Ephesians 2:8
1.A.W. Pink, Practical Christianity, (Michigan: Baker House, 1974) 183.
2. C.H. Spurgeon, A Defense of Calvinism, (Pennsylvania: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2008) 15.
3. C.H. Spurgeon, A Defense of Calvinism, (Pennsylvania: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2008) 23-24.
4. William Secker, The Nonsuch Professor in His Meridian Spledor or, the Singular Actions of Sanctified Christians. (New York: Fleming Revell) 114.