At the end of this month, starting from Friday 4/30 at 7:00 in the evening until Sunday 5/2 our church is going to host a conference titled “The Doctrines of Grace: Defined, Defended, and Discussed.” We will have 1 session on Friday, and then we will continue on Saturday from 9:00 in the morning until noon with 3 sessions, and we will conclude the conference on Sunday with the last session in our regular 2nd service. Registration is free; however, to help us with logistics we would like you to register here.
“What church do you go to?” many times people ask me. “Covenant United Reformed Church” I would answer. Then comes the next anticipated question, “Is it a Christian church?” One time the inquirer further asked, “Do you believe in the Bible?”, and then “Do you baptize people?” Many church goers today are not aware of 16th century Reformation movement that birthed the Protestant church. Many people don’t know the history of their faith, let alone the great reformers that God used to keep the Gospel from being distorted further by the contemporary church at that time. Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Huss, Ulrich Zwingli are as foreign as Greek to many Christians.
Reformed Church is a descendant of the 16th century Reformation movement– a movement that brought about Protestant church. One of the great reformers was John Calvin who taught the 5 points of Calvinism that were embraced by Reformed churches. These 5 points are often referred to with its acronym T-U-L-I-P. (Calvin’s followers actually came with this summation after his death). What is T-U-L-I-P?
In a nutshell, it’s the framework of Reformed belief, and it’s thoroughly based on the Bible. In the interest of time and space I will touch on each point briefly.
T stands for “Total Depravity“. We believe that the fall affected not only our first parents, but also all humanity. We are not saying that mankind became as bad as they could be; rather, we believe that the fall rotted the very core of our heart so that the Bible says that even our good deed is like a dirty rag. Further the Bible also declares, “… every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Gen 6:5, 8:21) Article 2 of the Third and Fourth Head of Doctrine of the Canons of Dordt summarizes it this way, “Man after the fall begat children in his own likeness. A corrupt stock produced a corrupt offspring. Hence, all the posterity of Adam, Christ only excepted, have derived corruption from their original parent, not by imitation, as the Pelagians of old asserted, but by the propagation of a vicious nature, in consequence of the just judgment of God.”
U stands for “Unconditional Election.” We believe that God, from the foundation of the world chose (elected) people whom he would save. This saving act of God is based solely on the God’s wisdom and not because of what those people do. It’s not that God looked through the corridor of history and, being an omniscience being, He saw that these people would respond favorably to the Gospel and thus, he elected those people. No! We do believe that God’s election is according to God’s sovereign good pleasure of His own will. “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him, in love having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He bestowed grace upon us in the Beloved” (Eph 1:4-6), and “Whom He predestined, these He also called, and whom he called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified” (Rom 8:30)
L stands for “Limited Atonement.” We believe that Christ didn’t atone for the sin of the entire human race, rather, we believe that Christ died of specific people whom he has predestined before the foundation of the world to receive his grace. Many people today believe that Christ died on the cross for everyone, and it is up to us whether we want to receive his offer or not. If that were the case, then it is possible that Christ died for nobody if nobody chose to believe in Him. That is absurd! This kind of teaching reduces Christ to the level of a “benevolent giver” rather than the Savior. It further teaches work salvation because at the end of the day our salvation based on our own choosing. Billy Graham often said along the line, “God accomplishes 99% of your salvation, but you still have to do that 1%.” Nothing can be further from the truth! Contrary to this, the Bible teaches over and over that our salvation is solely by grace. “You did not choose Me, but I chose you…” (Jn 15:16), and “and if by grace, then it is no longer of works” (Rom 11:6). But Hiz, is it fair for God to choose some people to be saved, and not all? Remember the twin brothers Esau and Jacob? The inerrant word of God teaches,”though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— she was told ‘The older will serve the younger.’ As it is written, ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.’ (Rom 9:11-13). Did you read it right? “I loved both Jacob and Esau.” Yes? No. God said, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” Please also note the leading phrase, “though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad.” It’s not that God loved Jacob because of what he did or didn’t do. The Apostle didn’t stop there because then He continued, “What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’ (Rom 9:14-15) And to quote our Savior, “Is it not lawful for Me to do what I wish with My own things?” (Mt 20:15)
I stands for “Irresistible Grace.” Simply said, we believe that the elects of God will enter Heaven kicking and screaming, yet at the same time jumping with joy! Many people would refer to a picture of (a man perceived to be) Jesus knocking at our heart, and say, “Look! the door knob is inside. It’s up to you if you want to open your heart to Him or not. Our Savior is patiently waiting outside of your heart wanting to go in.” Do you want to believe in such a weak God? A God who depends on His creatures before he can take action. Me? I don’t believe in such a god. I believe in the strong and immutable God and Savior who said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.” (Jn 15:16) Further, “So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.” (Rom 9:16)
P stands for “Perseverance of the Saints.” We believe that by God’s unfailing mercy the elects will persevere until the end. Yes, we still struggle with sin as long as we live in this fallen world, but Christ has died for our sins and God will keep us safe until the day we see Him face to face in the glorious Heaven. “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 8:38-39) The ultimate comfort comes from the mouth of our Savior, even Jesus Christ who said, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” (Jn 10:28-29)
By God’s grace and mercy He enabled me to come to this understanding, and it gives me immense appreciation of God’s love, mercy and glory. I also came to the realization of my misery and inability in and off myself to save myself. Our salvation is solely and purely by God’s grace alone, wrought about in our heart by faith alone, because of Christ alone whose righteousness is imputed to us. This understanding is not intended to puff ourselves up, but it will humble ourselves and bring glory to God alone because this teaching is based not on our own fancy, but according to the Scriptures alone.
If you’d like to know more about this, I would love to invite you to the upcoming conference at our church on this topic. It will be held from Friday, 4/30 at 7:00 PM and we will conclude on Sunday, 5/2 at our regular service. We will have 1 session on Friday night, 3 session on Saturday 5/1 in the morning from 9 to 12, and we will conclude this conference on Sunday 5/2. Bring your questions, and we’ll talk. Don’t worry, we don’t bite! Registration is free, but to help us with logistics you’re encouraged to register here. Hope to see you there!
Soli Deo Gloria.