The Doctrines of Sovereign Grace
The Doctrines of Sovereign Grace are basically five important teachings
found in Scripture that underline the fact truth that God is sovereign
and in control of all things, and that God alone is the source of
salvation. This teaching glorifies God, not man, and emphasizes our
total dependence on the mercy and grace of God for salvation.
(Much of the following is based with grateful acknowledgement on an
article written by Malcolm H. Watts that appeared in the February 1997
edition of the Evangelical Times.)
1. Total Depravity
The Scriptures clearly teach that the effects of sin have extended to
all parts of our being, rendering us incapable of spiritual
understanding and love towards God. Despite the heading of this first
article, it does not indicate that all people are as wicked as they
could possibly be in all areas of belief and practice. However, sin has
so fully and deeply affected our lives that, spiritually speaking, we
are in a totally hopeless condition, unable to do anything to get
ourselves out of this fallen state.
Our natural spiritual incapacity prevents us from being able to respond
by our own strength to the call of the gospel message, yet this does not
remove our guilt. We choose to follow the natural inclinations of our
depraved hearts because when left to ourselves that is all we want to
Scripture references: Ephesians 4:18; 1 Corinthians 2:14; Romans 1:30;
John 15:25; Luke 19:14; John 5:40; Isaiah 5:20; Titus 1:15; Deuteronomy
32:18; Hebrews 2:1; John 12:39; John 6:44+65; John 3:18.
2. Unconditional Election
God has shown us in his Word that from eternity past he has elected some
sinners to be saved from the condemnation that is justly deserved by
all, purely on account of his gracious mercy and love, not because of
any foreseen merits in those sinners. Because of the fact of total
depravity, salvation must originate with God, and we read in the Bible
that it is God's sovereign will alone that has determined the recipients
of that salvation.
This doctrine does not render God unjust, for all are guilty and all
deserve to suffer God's judgment. Rather, it emphasizes the grace of God
by the fact that he has chosen some for salvation.
Scripture references: Psalm 65:4; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; Romans 9:11;
Ephesians 1:4,5,9,11; Romans 11:5; Romans 9:15,23; Psalm 103:11; 1 Peter
1:2-3; 1 Thessalonians 5:9; Jonah 2:9.
3. Particular Redemption (or Limited Atonement)
Put simply, Christ died only to save the elect, securing with absolute
certainty their salvation. This is not to teach that there is anything
lacking in the power of God, perhaps suggesting that he is not able to
save all men. Rather, God's Word indicates that it was the Father's
intention that his Son was to suffer and die only for his chosen people,
atoning for their sins alone. Christ's atonement was limited only in
extent, not in power, according to the sovereign will of God.
In the Bible we read that the Lord's servant (Jesus) would see the
results of his work (his atoning sacrifice) and "be satisfied" (Isaiah
53:11). But also, Jesus stated plainly that there are many who are
heading for eternal destruction (Matthew 7:13). We can only reconcile
these two statements if we understand that Christ died only for a
limited number of people - for God's elect.
Scripture references: Acts 20:28; John 3:14+15; Galatians 1:4+5;
Revelation 13:8; John 6:38+39; John 17:9,10+24; John 10:11; 1 Peter
2:21; Romans 5:8-10; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; Romans 8:33+34; Luke 1:68;
Revelation 5:9; Isaiah 53:11.
4. Irresistible Grace
When the gospel is preached, an invitation is issued by the Lord to all
people to come to him for salvation. However, as the first article
clearly states, the natural state of all people renders them incapable
of responding to this invitation, except to reject it. So when God calls
an elect sinner to repentance and faith in Christ Jesus, he does so by
sending his Holy Spirit to work a great change in that sinner's heart,
enabling them to see their sin and their need of a savior and leading
them to put their faith in Christ alone for salvation. The Lord, by his
Spirit, irresistibly draws his elect to himself, raising them to
spiritual life and making them willing to trust in Jesus.
Scripture references: Matthew 11:28-30; John 6:37; Matthew 23:37; John
5:40; Ephesians 1:12,19; Ezekiel 11:19+20; Psalm 110:3; 2 Thessalonians
5. Perseverance of the Saints
Once God has saved elect sinners, he continues to keep and preserve them
by his power and grace and will never let them go. Thus, they persevere
to the end and can never be lost. If God did not do this, we would
inevitably turn back again to the world, because of the sin that is
around us and within us. Thus God enables his children to continue in
faith and obedience throughout their earthly lives, then to pass into
God's presence forever. This doctrine is not to be taken as a license to
go on sinning, as if the believer is free to act in any way he chooses
now that he is eternally secure in Christ Jesus. The true believer will
show signs of a growing desire for holiness and an increasing loathing
of sin. The one who attempts to use the grace of God as an excuse for
sinful living is in all probability not a true believer, for where there
is spiritual life, the fruit of the Spirit will become evident.
Scripture references: 1 Peter 1:5; James 4:6; Philippians 1:6+19; John
6:39; John 10:28+29; Romans 8:38+39; Romans 8:8; Galatians 5:13-26