Introduction To Sovereign Grace

By Tom Ross, Pastor

Mount Pleasant Baptist Church, Chesapeake, Ohio

Copyright 1991, by Tom Ross.



Psalms 11:3 states; "If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?" Pastor Al Gormley of the Bryan Station Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky preached from this text on the day when Wilmington Baptist Temple in Wilmington, Ohio was organized as a New Testament Baptist Church on August 29, 1981. I was privileged to be in attendance on that day as a charter member of Wilmington Baptist Temple.

His sermon consisted of exhortations to "earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered to the saints." He emphasized the importance of standing for the "Doctrines of Grace" in a day when most Baptists have departed from these precious truths. Part of the "faith once delivered" is the teaching of God's sovereign grace in the salvation of unworthy and helpless sinners.

There has never been a time in my brief Christian life that I have not believed in the system of belief known as the "Doctrines of Grace." Therefore, it is with great delight that I begin this series of studies. My hope and prayer as always is that the saints might be built up in the most holy faith, and that the God of all grace would be exalted and glorified.


THE PRESENT DILEMMA

The Twentieth Century has been marked by a major departure from the orthodox, biblical teaching of the doctrine of soteriology or salvation. Many have sold the truth in their quest for success and recognition among popular evangelical leaders. The acid test for any belief has never been whether it is accepted by the majority, but whether it is according to "the law and the testimony", found in the infallible Word of the Living God.

Most of today's preaching consists of storytelling and psychology aimed at entertaining the flesh of the natural man with the hope of getting him down the aisle to make a profession of faith in Christ. The invitation at the end of the sermon has become the focal point of evangelism rather than the sinner's need for repentance and saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Sinners often walk the aisle, repeat a prayer, and then are enthusiastically assured by the preacher that they are "eternally secure". Yet, their lives often remain unchanged while trusting in an empty profession. Churches have become filled with spiritual Ishmael's, produced out of the energy of the flesh rather than the power of God.

Whenever there is a departure from a scriptural presentation of the Gospel as the power of God unto salvation, there will also be a departure in the methods used to persuade sinners to trust Christ. For example, Jack Hyles, who is revered in most Fundamentalist camps made the following statement in his book, 'How to Boost Your Church Attendance':

"Many of us in our preaching will make such statements as, 'Now, in conclusion'; 'Finally, may I say'; "My last point is...'. These statements are sometimes dangerous. The sinner knows five minutes before you finish; hence he digs in and prepares himself for the invitation so that he does not respond. However, if your closing is abrupt and a lost person does not suspect that you are about finished, you have crept up on him and he will not have time to prepare himself for the invitation. Many people may be reached, using this method. " 1

The only answer to the shallow teachings of Arminianism and "easy believism" is a return to the old paths of God's sovereign grace in the salvation of sinners. As J.I. Packer stated:

"There is really only one point to be made in the field of soteriology: the point that God saves sinners. GOD--the Triune Jehovah, Father, Son and Spirit; three Persons working together in sovereign wisdom, power and love to achieve the salvation of a chosen people, the Father electing, the Son fulfilling the Father's will by redeeming, the Spirit executing the purpose of the Father and Son by renewing. SAVES--does everything, first to last, that is involved in bringing man from death in sin to life in glory: plans, achieves and communicates redemption, calls and keeps, justifies, sanctifies, glorifies. SINNERS--men as God finds them, guilty, vile, helpless, powerless, unable to lift a finger to do God's will or better their spiritual lot. GOD SAVES SINNERS--and the force of this confession may not be weakened by disrupting the unity of the work of the Trinity, or by dividing the achievement of salvation between God and man and making the decisive part man's own, or by soft-pedaling the sinner's inability so as to allow him to share the praise of his salvation with his Savior. This is the one point of Calvinistic soteriology which the 'five points' are concerned to establish and Arminianism in all its forms to deny: namely, that sinners do not save themselves in any sense at all, but that salvation, first and last, whole and entire, past, present and future, is of the Lord, to whom be glory for ever; amen." 2

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IDENTIFYING THE TERMINOLOGY

Many excellent books have been written on the doctrines of grace without simply defining several terms that are frequently used by theologians. Many people refer to the doctrines of grace as the "Five Points of Calvinism." I prefer to use the term "Doctrines of Grace" for two reasons. First, because it is the language of scripture. Secondly, because I don't believe that these doctrines originated with John Calvin or any other man for that matter. They are teachings that originate with God who inspired the Holy Scriptures. They are teachings that the Lord's churches have been proclaiming throughout the centuries.

  1. Total depravity--refers to the fallen state of the natural man who inherits a sin nature at conception. Every sinner is spiritually dead, with no capacity or desire for spiritual things. He is incapable in and of himself to come to a saving knowledge of Christ apart from the work of the Holy Spirit in regeneration. Every faculty of the sinner has been corrupted as a result of the fall of Adam. In short, man has been completely ruined by sin without any hope of restoration apart from the distinguishing grace of God.
  2. Unconditional Election--refers to the sovereign choice of some men unto salvation by God the Father, before the foundation of the world, not according to any foreseen merit or faith that he saw in the sinner, but according to his own good pleasure and purpose of grace.
  3. Limited Atonement (Particular Redemption)--refers to the teaching of the specific intent and extent of Christ's sacrifice on the cross. He died only for the elect. He came to redeem and reconcile only those whom God chose. He acted as substitute and surety only for those whom the Father had given Him before the world began. Christ did not shed one drop of blood in vain. He did not die for the devil, reprobate angels, or for any sinner who dies in unbelief and goes to Hell.
  4. Irresistible Grace (Effectual Calling)--refers to the fact that all whom the Father elected and the Son died for will assuredly come to salvation through the power and work of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. When the Spirit draws in the effectual call the sinner most willingly comes to Christ, as it is impossible to resist the will and power of God.
  5. Preservation and Perseverance of the Saints--refers to the fact that all the elect are preserved from final apostasy in hell by the power of God, and that all true children of God who have been changed in regeneration will preserver in holiness. Simply stated, it is impossible for one of God's elect to be kicked out of His family, become a child of the devil, lose God's salvation and go to Hell.
  6. Man's Free Will--refers to the popular opinion of many that man's will was not corrupted by the Fall of Adam. That he has the ability to choose and come to Christ of his own volition. Arminians teach that man's supposed free will is one of the moving causes of his salvation, thus basing salvation upon man's decision making process rather than the power of God. (Because of the controversy surrounding free will an entire lesson will be devoted to its refutation later.)
  7. Arminianism--refers to the teachings of James Arminius the Dutch theologian of the Sixteenth Century. Arminians are in direct opposition to all of the five points of the doctrines of grace. Most of professing Christendom ascribe either in part or in whole to this system of teaching. Most Baptists are what I call "Whiskey Calvinists" because they believe only one-fifth of the doctrines of grace, namely eternal security.

There are only two systems of thought that are found in the world today concerning the salvation of men. One ascribes salvation partly to God and partly to man in cooperation with each other which is grace mixed with works. The other ascribes salvation entirely to God apart from the works of sinful man. The latter system is what is taught in the scriptures as I shall endeavor to prove in this study. Romans 11:5-6 states; "Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work..." verse 36; "For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen."


END NOTES

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  1. Hyles, Jack, How to Boost Your Church Attendance (Grand Rapids, MI, 1958), pp. 32-35.
  2. Steele, David N. and Thomas, Curtis C., The Five Points of Calvinism (Philadelphia, PA: The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co.), 1979) p. 14.

 

 

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