If you were to enter into a time machine, go back to the year 2005, and ask my 14-year-old self to explain the Gospel, I would have likely said that Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins and rose again on the third day, and by believing in Him, we can have eternal life. This is certainly not a wrong answer, but at the time that, was the extent of my understanding of the Gospel message. I didn’t see it as the very core of every single aspect of the Christian walk, but instead as the truth that we have to initially believe in order to get saved. But throughout my high school and college years, I grew in the faith and the Holy Spirit began to illuminate more and more truth in my heart and mind from the Scriptures. I began to see that the essence of true spiritual maturity is never to graduate from the Gospel, but rather to always be reminded of it! The more I began to study about my Lord and Savior as prophesied in the Old Testament and revealed and explained in the New Testament, the more I began to fully appreciate the meaning of what Christ did for me 2,000 years ago.
Now – hop back into the hypothetical time machine with me and travel to the year 2014. A lot of major turning points in my Christian walk happened during that time. I was baptized in February of that year, I was walking through one of the most difficult trials of my life, which the Lord used to work mightily on my heart. I began exposing myself to reformed teaching for the first time. The Lord began to use ministries such as Wretched and Grace to You to show me that there was much more truth to glean from the pages of Scripture than I could have ever imagined. Examining passages that I once thought I already had a solid understanding of, in light of reformed theology, completely blew my mind, but more importantly, they revealed Christ and His saving grace to me like never before! Once I had fully embraced the Doctrines of Grace, which is at the very heart of reformed theology, there was no going back. To do so would be like watching a beloved TV show in standard definition after already seeing it in HD!
This leads us to our topic for today and the months to follow: the Doctrines of Grace. What exactly are the Doctrines of Grace, and why should they matter to all of us as believers? To answer this question, we need to go back to the time of the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century. When Martin Luther famously nailed his 95 Theses on the church door in 1517, little did he know that what was intended to be a call for academic discussion regarding certain abuses in the Catholic Church (most notably the selling of indulgences), would end up sparking an entire movement that would effectually recover the true gospel that had been neglected and forgotten within Christendom for so many centuries. The battle cry of Sola Scriptura started by Luther led other reformers to develop even deeper understandings of key doctrines such as justification, election, predestination, and so on.
Among such reformers who led the way in this effort was a French theologian by the name of John Calvin. In his most notable work titled “Institutes of the Christian Religion”, Calvin argued from the basis of Scripture that until we are regenerated, we are hopelessly bound in our sin due to the fall of Adam which has corrupted us at the deepest level. Though his teachings were by no means new to the Church, Calvin became associated with them, so much so that they began to be collectively referred to as Calvinism. By the late 16th Century, the Reformation movement was most certainly Calvinistic, but some began objecting to the “extreme” views of man’s fallenness and complete inability to come to saving faith apart from regeneration, including most notably a Dutch reformer by the name of Jacobus Arminius. His views of soteriology, or the study of salvation, would become known as Arminianism. In 1610, just one year after Arminius’s death, a group of Arminian theologians known as the Remonstrants famously came up with a list of five articles to summarize their objections to Calvinism. Consequently, in 1618, the Calvinists defended their position at the Synod of Dort by coming up with five points of their own in order to address the five primary criticisms raised by the Arminians. These five counterarguments were, in turn, the five points of Calvinism that Christians are familiar with today. They are easy to remember by using the acronym TULIP. The five points of Calvinism are as follows:
T: Total Depravity
U: Unconditional Election
L: Limited Atonement
I: Irresistible Grace
P: Perseverance of the Saints
We will be exploring each of these points in the coming months, and there will be an entire blog series devoted to each of those five points. The five points of Calvinism are, in essence, what defines the Doctrines of Grace. My challenge for you, as you consider the weighty implications of these doctrines, is to not let it simply become a mere academic exercise. Though there is nothing wrong with informing your mind about the deeper truths concerning your salvation in Christ, God graciously revealed these truths in the pages of Scripture so that they would penetrate your heart and lead you to behold your God in the face of Christ! It is my prayer that God would use these upcoming blog series to encourage you as you study His Word and ponder how God saved you while you were hopelessly dead in your sin; how God knew you before time began and chose to save you for His eternal glory; how Christ came and made a complete atonement for your sins when He said, “It is finished!” (John 19:30) and continues to intercede on your behalf as our merciful and faithful High Priest; how God changed your heart and gave you a genuine desire to long for His saving grace; and how you have been sealed by the Holy Spirit and nothing can snatch you from the hand of God.