In this post my purpose is not to provide a defense of the Doctrines of Grace (known as T.U.L.I.P.). Many have already done such a thing. If you wish to review the definitions of the Doctrines of Grace, accompanied with Scriptural support, click here. I also highly recommend the book, The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, and Documented and the concise booklet What the Bible Says About The Doctrines of Grace: A Categorized Scripture List. In this post I simply want to express why I love the Doctrines of Grace; why I find them so attractive; why I see them to be absolutely important for the Christian life. I love the Doctrines of Grace because:
1) They are biblical. Needless to say, the Doctrines of Grace are found throughout the entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. The Five Points of Calvinism and Foundations of Grace more than adequately provide the biblical support for this. Reformed Theology holds a high view of Scripture, so naturally we joyfully embrace these doctrines that are so strongly emphasized throughout God’s word. This is important; the Doctrines of Grace aren’t formulated by mere inferences from Scripture. Rather, these are explicit teachings in the Bible.
2) They exalt God as He ought to be exalted. Perhaps the overarching point of the 5-Points is that God is absolutely sovereign and is alone to be boasted in. God’s grace in redemption is sovereign grace. The Doctrines of Grace proclaim the glory of God and affirm that salvation is the work of God through and through. It is as the apostle Paul says in Romans 11:33-36:
Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! ‘For who has known the mind of the LORD? Or who has become His counselor? Or who has first given to Him and it shall be repaid to him?’ For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.
While some may not like to hear it, those who deny certain points of the Doctrines of Grace deny, to some degree, the glory of God in salvation.
3) They are humbling to our ego. Man, especially natural man, loves to take credit for things they have no claim over. Even as redeemed individuals we can tend to boast in ourselves. Unfortunately, many in our day want some form of credit for their salvation. While they boast in the Lord for their salvation, they show their inconsistency by denying God’s sovereign grace and election. They believe they had the final say in whether or not they would be saved. Scripture, on the other hand, declares with great clarity and force that God has the only say (Jn. 6:44-45, 65; 1 Cor. 1:30-31; Eph. 1:1-14; 2:1-5). Those who have a proper understanding of and a whole-hearted commitment to the Doctrines of Grace may truly give all glory to God in their salvation. It is an immensely humbling experience to recognize man’s total depravity and inability and God’s redeeming grace. When we properly understand our spiritual condition (apart from Christ) and our just desert of God’s wrath, can we begin to understand and appreciate the beauty and joy of God’s redeeming grace. It is God’s doing that we are worshipers of God through Christ, not our own (Rom. 5:8-11).
4) They are central to the gospel. The Doctrines of Grace, all 5-Points, have everything to do with the gospel of Jesus Christ: Man’s sinfulness (Total Depravity); God’s sovereign will (Unconditional Election); Christ’s substitutionary and effectual sacrifice (Limited or Particular Redemption/Atonement); God’s sovereign and effectual grace (Irresistible Grace); God’s faithfulness and man’s assurance (Perseverance of the Saints). This is why this is such an important topic. This is why there is much debate surrounding these doctrines within Evangelical circles. This is not a trifling matter. The glory of God and the biblical gospel are at stake. I believe the Doctrines of Grace faithfully communicate the true biblical gospel and give the glory due God’s name.
5) They serve as necessary principles for any biblical gospel ministry. A biblical gospel ministry, whether it is in preaching or evangelism or missions, is a ministry founded on the sovereign grace of God and committed to proclaiming the true biblical gospel. Much harm is done today in so-called gospel ministries by replacing a commitment to the sovereign grace of God in bringing sinners to repentance and faith with man-made attractions and so-called “seeker-sensitive” methodologies. A rejection of God’s sovereignty in salvation has led many churches into a whirlwind of unbiblical and man-centered practices such as raising your hand and walking down an aisle, repeating the “sinner’s prayer” (where is that in the Bible?), emotional music manipulation, a downplay on the sinfulness of man, etc. The result is superficial ministry with a superficial, watered-down gospel. The objective has turned from faithfully proclaiming the biblical gospel for the glory of God to getting as many people to raise their hand and repeat a prayer after hearing a few vague statements on the gospel and being asked if they want to go to heaven. On the other hand, when we embrace the Doctrines of Grace it helps us to focus on the biblical objective and conduct our ministries in a way that honor and glorify God. Compare Paul’s theology and practice of gospel ministry to many ministries today:
Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose hear. But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Cor. 4:1-6)
I suppose more reasons could be thought of and listed, but I believe these are primary. It is important, however, that we not embrace these truths for the wrong reasons. I suppose there are those out there who embrace the Doctrines of Grace with prideful motives. Perhaps they do so because they feel superior in their theology than others, looking down their noses at those who don’t understand them or don’t embrace them. Perhaps they do so with boasting of themselves. As mentioned before, the Doctrines of Grace should humble us. While we should continue to proclaim, defend, and clarify the Doctrines of Grace as being biblical doctrines, we need to make sure our motivation is not self-superiority, but the glory of God and the biblical gospel.
For those out there who reject the 5-Points of Calvinism (or some of them) I encourage you to look into the biblical evidence for these doctrines. Read the books I have recommended. Take another look at those passages of Scripture that are often explained away by non-Calvinists. Read them and meditate upon them. What do they really say? Don’t read into them what is not there. Allow the word of God to transform your theology and your life. I once argued against Calvinism only to realize at a later time, as I devoted more time to understanding what the 5-Points really taught and what the Scriptures really taught, that I had a misunderstanding of Calvinism. I continue to find that this is more than often the case with others. Do away with the caricatures. Study the arguments; study the Scriptures.