Saved By Grace


Copyright 1995. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reprinted in any form without permission from the publisher, except in the case of a brief quotation used in connection with a critical article or review. For information, address

The Reformed Free Publishing Association

Box 2006

Grand Rapids, Michigan 49501

Library of Congress: 95-68231

ISBN 0-916206-54-8

To order a copy of this book, check the Reformed Free Publishing Association page.

Saved by Grace

A Study of the Five Points of Calvinism

Authors: Rev. Ronald Cammenga and Rev. Ronald Hanko


Contents:

Foreword

Preface

1. The Sovereignty of God

2. Total Depravity

3 Unconditional Election

4 Limited Atonement

5 Irresistible Grace

6 Perseverance of the Saints

Recommended Readings

Appendix I (Citations from the Creeds)

Appendix II (Index of Scriptural Passages-these are unlisted here but are found in the back of the book.)

Study Guide for "Saved by Grace"


This book is dedicated to the late

Professor Homer C. Hoeksema

who in his teaching, preaching, and writing, not only ably defended the Five Points of Calvinism, but also endeared them to students, church members, and readers.


Foreword

This is not your standard treatise on the "five points of Calvinism" or, as these grand truths are also called, "the doctrines of grace."

There is the clear, biblical explanation of the doctrines remembered by "TULIP" that one might find elsewhere.

But this work is a consistent exposition of God's sovereignty in the gracious salvation of sinners. It does not suffer from the confusion, contradiction, and compromise that characterize many similar efforts: God elected some but wills to save all, the natural man is totally depraved but performs many good works, Christ died only for the elect but "is dead" for everyone who hears the gospel, the actual saving of sinners is by irresistible grace but must take place by a "well-meant offer" made alike to all.

Saved by Grace is a thorough exposition of the truth of salvation by grace alone. It neither ignores nor softens the especially offensive aspects of the five points: the wickedness of all the deeds of the unregenerated, the eternal reprobation of some persons, the exclusion of some from the atonement of Christ and from all its benefits, the will of God with the preaching of the gospel that it harden some who hear.

Here is a bold defense of the gospel of grace. The book answers the objections. It exposes and destroys the foes (within the sphere of professing Calvinists as well as without the camp). It flies the banner of full, consistent Calvinism with never a trace of shame.

The reason in the end is simply living knowledge of the triune God as revealed in Jesus Christ as really sovereign.

Such an exposition of the doctrines that make up the gospel is the need of our, and every other, time.

DAVID J. ENGELSMA

Protestant Reformed Seminary

Grandville, Michigan


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Preface

This is a book about Calvinism. Specifically it is a book about what are known as the Five Points of Calvinism, commonly referred to as the doctrines of grace.

The reader must not make the mistake of identifying Calvinism with the "Five Points." Calvinism is more than merely five points of doctrine. Calvinism is a whole system, an orderly arrangement of all the cardinal truths of the Word of God. More than that, it is a world-and-life view that concerns every area of earthly life: marriage and family, education and labor, church and society, entertainment and leisure, and much more. Nevertheless, the "Five Points" get at the heart of what Calvinism is.

Calvinism gets its name from the sixteenth century Protestant reformer John Calvin. More than any before him, Calvin developed and systematized these truths, especially in his well-known work Institutes of the Christian Religion. For this reason, although Calvinism by no means originated with Calvin, the system bears his name.

Historically the most eminent defense of Calvinism was carried on by the famed Synod of Dordrecht, 1618-1619. This synod, with representatives from Reformed churches all over the world, condemned the teaching of the Arminians, or Remonstrants, and reaffirmed the precious truths of Calvinism. Since the Arminians had expressed their doctrinal position in five key statements, the decisions of the synod were organized in a fivefold way. Thus the "Five Points" of Calvinism.

There remains today much antagonism toward Calvinism. Many even in Reformed and Presbyterian churches are ignorant of the Five Points of Calvinism, their own ecclesiastical heritage. In our spiritually illiterate age, misunderstanding and misconceptions also abound.

This book is an effort to correct this sad situation. We have attempted to set forth the Five Points of Calvinism in a straight-forward, easy-to-understand way. The book is written with the "ordinary" Christian in mind. With a view to convincing the unconvinced, the book is saturated with proof texts. We have made every effort to let the Scriptures (and God through them) speak. We also trust that the book will foster a deeper appreciation for the truths of Calvinism among those who do already consider themselves Calvinists.

This is our first attempt at book writing. We beg the indulgence of our readers. Our prayer is that the Lord will bless our feeble efforts for the cause of the advancement of His truth, for "except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it" (Psalm 127:1).

RONALD CAMMENGA

RONALD HANKO


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Chapter 1

The Sovereignty of God

One truth distinguishes what is known as the Reformed faith, or Calvinism. That truth is the sovereignty of God.

Many people suppose that the heart of Calvinism is its teaching of predestination. When they hear of Calvinism or that someone is a Calvinist, they immediately think of election and reprobation.

Now certainly, it is true that the doctrine of predestination has an important place in the teaching of Calvinism, as it did in the teaching of John Calvin himself. Nevertheless, predestination is not the central truth of the Reformed faith. The heart of Calvinism is not the doctrine of predestination, or, for that matter, any one of the other Five Points of Calvinism. The central truth proclaimed by Calvinism, Calvinism that is faithful to its heritage, is the absolute sovereignty of God. Calvin saw the essential place that the confession of the sovereignty of God has in relation to the whole body of biblical truth: "Unless we fully believe this (i.e., God's sovereignty) the very beginning of our faith is periled, by which we profess to believe in God Almighty" (Calvin's Calvinism, "The Eternal Predestination of God," p. 43).

The distinguishing feature of the Reformed faith is unquestionably its conception of God. What we believe about God matters most. Everything else that we believe stands connected to and is affected by what we believe about God. The most important question that any man faces is the question "Who is God?" It is true, as Calvin writes in the opening paragraph of his Institutes, that all "... true and sound wisdom, consists of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves" (I, 1, 1).1 But as he goes on to say, "... it is certain that man never achieves a clear knowledge of himself unless he has first looked upon God's face, and then descends from contemplating him to scrutinize himself" (I, 1, 2).2 Not only is the knowledge of God of great importance, it is also the chief end of man. The opening question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism asks: "What is the chief end of man?" The answer is: "Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever." But man cannot glorify God or enjoy Him, if man does not know God. Man's chief end and calling, therefore, is to know God.

Not only is the knowledge of God man's highest calling, it is also his greatest good. Jesus teaches that in John 17:3: "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." Salvation itself consists in knowing God. Those who have eternal life possess a right and saving knowledge of God.

The God Whom we must know is a sovereign God. Knowledge of God begins with the affirmation of faith that God is and that God is sovereign. Since God is, He is sovereign. If He is God, He must also be a sovereign God. If God is not sovereign, the inescapable implication is that He is not God.

This is the great issue that divides true religion and false religion! This is the great issue that separates the true church of Jesus Christ in the world from the false and apostate church! This is the issue that distinguishes faith from unbelief: the sovereignty of God!

The confession of God's sovereignty is gladly made by every believer. It is the teaching about God set forth in the infallible Scriptures, the source of our knowledge about God. And this is the truth confessed about God by Reformed Christians.


A. The Doctrine

God's sovereignty is His absolute authority and rule over all things. To say that God is sovereign is to say that God is God, and that because He is God He does as He pleases, only as He pleases, and always as He pleases. That God is sovereign means that He is the Lord, the Ruler, the Master, the King. The one who confesses the sovereignty of God confesses that God is Almighty, Omnipotent, the One Who exercises all power in heaven and on earth. To confess the sovereignty of God is to confess that nothing is outside of God's control, but that all things take place according to His will and appointment.

Two fundamental truths stand at the basis of God's sovereignty. The first of these truths is the oneness of God. God is God alone; and there is no other god than the Lord God. Obviously, two cannot be almighty. Two cannot be omnipotent. Two cannot be sovereign. God is sovereign because He and only He is God.

In the second place, the sovereignty of God rests on the truth that He is the Creator. God has made everything that exists. By His almighty power He brought everything into existence in the beginning, "... call(ing) those things which be not as though they were" (Rom. 4:17). The entire universe owes its existence to God. By virtue of the fact that He is the Creator, God is sovereign over all things.

Parents have the right to rule over their children. God gives them that right because they are their children. They have conceived them; they have brought them forth; they have given them their life and existence. If this is true of earthly parents in relationship to their children, how much more is this not true of God in relationship to the universe!

God's sovereignty is an absolute sovereignty. By this we mean that God's sovereignty is over everything and everyone - nothing is excluded from God's sovereign control. God rules in the realm of the natural, exercising His power over inanimate creatures as well as the brute creation. God rules over men and angels, time and history, the world and the church. God's rule extends not only to those circumstances we regard as good, but also to the bad: sickness, famine, tornadoes, floods, hurricanes, and earthquakes. Beyond this, God is sovereign even over sin and sinners, the devil and the demons of hell. They do nothing apart from His sovereign will.

Not only is God absolutely sovereign in the realm of the natural, but He is sovereign also in salvation. God's sovereignty in salvation means that God saves whom He wills to save and there is no power able to frustrate the sovereign power of God at work in the saving of the sinner. Not the natural obstinacy of the sinner himself, not the power of the devil, formidable though it is, not the opposition of the wicked world, intense though it may be, are able to stand in the way of the sovereignty of God. Not only can none of those frustrate the sovereign power of God in salvation, but under the sovereignty of God they actually serve the ultimate salvation of God's people.


B. Scripture Passages

1. God's sovereignty affirmed.

a. Job 42:2. I know that thou canst do everything, and that no thought can be withholden from thee.

Job acknowledges that God can do everything, in other words, that God is sovereign. He goes on to state the implications of this, namely, that no one can "withhold" or prevent from being realized any thought in the mind of God. What God wills and plans He is able always to bring to pass.

b. Psalm 115:3. But our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased.

God's sovereignty is affirmed here by the statement of the psalmist that God is "in the heavens." He is not an earthly creature, finite and limited. This affirmation is strengthened when he adds, "He hath done whatsoever he hath pleased." What God pleases, that is, what He wills, He does. With us men it is different. It is very well possible that we will something but are unable to bring it to pass. We deal with this frustration daily. I want to go somewhere, but if my car is broken down, I am prevented from carrying out what I will. What God wills, He is able to accomplish. Nothing is able to frustrate His will because He is sovereign.

c. Isaiah 14:24, 27. The Lord of heaven hath sworn, saying, surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand. For the Lord of Hosts hath purposed, and who shall disannul it? And his hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back?

What God thinks comes to pass; what He purposes stands. Nothing is able to contravene God's sovereignty. When Isaiah asks, "Who shall disannul it?" the obvious answer is "No one!" And when he asks, "Who shall turn it back?" the implied answer again is "No one!"

d. Isaiah 49:9, 10. Remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.

God's counsel stands, that is, comes to pass just as He has willed it. God does all His good pleasure, everything He pleases. This happens because "... there is none else, ... there is none like me...."

e. Daniel 4:34, 35. And at the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the Most High, and I praised and honored him that liveth for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation: and all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?

In His sovereignty God does as He wills in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth. Heaven and earth - all things - are included in His sovereign control. What makes this such a striking confession of the sovereignty of God is that it is a confession made by an unbelieving man - King Nebuchadnezzar. Even such a wicked man is forced, not only to see, but also to acknowledge God's sovereignty. Nebuchadnezzar had experienced that sovereignty of God in his own life. In His sovereignty God had taken Nebuchadnezzar's kingdom away from him and humbled that proud king as a beast of the field. Nebuchadnezzar had gloried in his own power and fancied himself the master of his own destiny: "Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honor of my majesty?" (Dan. 4:30) He had denied and defied God's sovereignty. And God had demonstrated His sovereignty to Nebuchadnezzar, demonstrated it to him in a way that he would not soon forget, as He often does to those who deny His sovereign prerogatives.

f. Ephesians 1:11. In whom we also have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.

This text is speaking about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As the Son of God, He works all things according to His will.

g. I Timothy 6:15. Which in his times he shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords.

God is the King of kings and the Lord of lords. He is exalted over the rulers of this world. And if God rules over the rulers of this world, the highest earthly dignitaries, He rules over everything in this world.

h. Revelation 11:16, 17. And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God, saying, We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned.

In this passage God's sovereignty is taught in two ways. First, He is called "Lord God Almighty." That God is Lord and that He is Almighty indicates His sovereignty. Secondly, it is said about Him that He has taken to himself "great power and hast reigned." That God takes to Himself "great" power, the greatest power, and that He reigns, reigns alone, and reigns notwithstanding the defiance of His enemies means that He is sovereign.


2. God's sovereignty over the brute creation.

a. Genesis 1, 2, the creation account.

The fact of God's creation of the heavens and the earth demonstrates His sovereignty over the creation. When God said, "Let there be light," there was light. When God said, "Let there be a firmament," the firmament appeared. When God called forth the animals they did not begin a long evolutionary development of several million years, but they came forth into existence. And so it was with every creature God made.

b. Miracles like the Flood ( Gen. 7), the ten plagues sent by God on Egypt (Ex. 8-12), Israel's crossing of the Red Sea ( Ex. 14), the sending of the manna ( Ex. 16), the standing still of the sun ( Josh. 10), and other similar miracles all point to God's sovereignty over the creation and every creature in the creation. This is why it is necessary for the church today to defend the miracles that are recorded in the Holy Scriptures. To deny the miracles is not only to deny the infallibility of the Bible but it is also to deny the sovereignty of God. Because the Christian believes the sovereignty of God, he has no difficulty accepting the miracles taught in the Bible. Because he believes the sovereignty of God, the Christian looks forward eagerly to the miracles prophesied in the Bible: the second coming of Jesus Christ, the resurrection of our dead bodies, and the creation of a new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness shall dwell.
c. Psalm 103:19. The Lord hath prepared his throne in the heavens; and his kingdom ruleth over all.

Since God's throne (the symbol of power) is in the heavens and His kingdom rules over all, the entire creation is subject to His sovereign control.

d. Psalm 135:6, 7. Whatsoever the Lord pleased, that did he in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and all deep places. He causeth the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth; he maketh the lightnings for the rain; he bringeth the wind out of his treasuries.

God's sovereignty, according to this passage, extends to heaven, the earth, the seas, and all deep places. Dew, lightning, rain, and the wind are under the controlling hand of God. "It" does not rain; God causes it to rain. "It" does not blow; God sends the wind. That it rains, where it rains, how much it rains - all are determined by God.

e. Matthew 10:29, 30. Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.

The sovereign rule of God extends to the (what we would call) insignificant sparrows, and even (who would think of it!) the hairs of our heads. If sparrows and hair are under the sovereignty of God, it is safe to conclude that everything is under His sovereign rule.


3. God's sovereignty over men and the affairs of men's lives.

a. Proverbs 16:9. A man's heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps.

Man may set goals and make plans, but God "directeth" the course of man's life. What a man does, where he goes, what he accomplishes, are determined by a sovereign God.

b. Proverbs 16:33. The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord.

In Bible times issues were often decided or people chosen by means of the casting of lots. For example, when the children of Israel came into the land of Canaan, each tribe received its specific portion of the land of Canaan by the casting of lots: "Notwithstanding the land shall be divided by lot: according to the names of the tribes of their fathers shall they inherit. According to the lot shall the possession thereof be divided between many and few" (Num. 26:55, 56). The outcome of the casting of lots might appear to be random, purely arbitrary. Solomon says in Proverbs 16:33 that that is not the case. The "disposing," that is, the result of the casting of lots, is under the control of God. Clearly, God rules over men and the activity of men.

c. Proverbs 21:1. The king's heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water; he turneth it whithersoever he will.

Not just the king's actions, but the very heart of the king is in the hand of God. The heart in the Scriptures is the center and seat of man's entire life. If God controls the king's heart, He controls the king. And if God controls the king, the greatest of men, He controls all those who are under the king. In other words, all men, high and low, great and small, mighty and insignificant, are subject to the sovereign will of an Almighty God.

d. Jeremiah 10:23. O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.

Man, Jeremiah says, does not direct the course of his own footsteps. His way in life is not "in himself." He walks, he lives an active life in the world, but ultimately it is God who directs the course of man's life.


4. God's sovereignty in salvation.

a. Matthew 11:25, 26. At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight.

By these words Jesus teaches clearly the sovereignty of God in salvation. God hides the things of the kingdom of heaven from certain men, with the result that they are not saved. God reveals the things of the kingdom to other men, with the result that they are saved. Both the hiding and the revealing take place according to the sovereign will of God: "... for so it seemed good in thy sight."

b. Acts 16:14. And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.

Lydia was saved. Although she was saved by means of the preaching of the apostle Paul, it was not Paul who saved her. Although Lydia believed Paul's preaching, Lydia did not save herself by the power of her own free will. Lydia's salvation was due to this, that the Lord opened her heart, as He does the heart of every sinner who is saved.

c. Romans 9:18. Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.

The apostle Paul teaches here that God shows mercy to those men and women to whom He wills to show mercy. Since God's mercy is the cause of our salvation, we may understand Paul to be teaching here that God saves whom He wills to save. Not only that, but those who are not saved, are not saved because God hardens them in their sin and unbelief: "... and whom he will he hardeneth."

God's sovereignty in salvation is also clearly taught in a multitude of Scripture passages that speak of God efficaciously saving sinners. God does not just try to save sinners, all the while depending on their willingness to be saved. He does not attempt to save them but stand helplessly when they do not cooperate with Him by using their free will to be saved. He does not do His best to save sinners, always facing the real possibility that His best is not good enough and that the sinner may effectively resist His efforts to save him. No, God saves sinners, sovereignly, efficaciously, irresistibly. This is always how the Scriptures describe salvation.

d. Matthew 1:21. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins.
e. I Corinthians 1:21. For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.
f. Ephesians 2:4, 5. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved).
g. II Timothy 1:9. Who saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.
h. II Timothy 1:12. For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.

That which Paul has committed to God is his soul's salvation. He is confident that God is able to keep that which he has committed to Him. What explains the confidence of Paul? How can he be sure that he will be kept in salvation notwithstanding the devil, the wicked world, and his own sinful flesh? He can have that confidence only because of his belief in God's sovereignty. Because God sovereignly brought him to salvation, he can be sure that God will also sovereignly preserve him in salvation.


5. God's sovereignty over the evils and adversities of earthly life.

There is a popular misconception today that only that which is good comes from the hand of God and is under the control of God. The bad things, the trouble, and earthly distresses, it is supposed, are the work of the devil. Health and prosperity come from God, while the sudden death of a young mother or the disaster caused by an earthquake are from the devil. The Bible teaches quite differently.

a. Genesis 50:20. But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.

Great calamity had befallen Joseph. He had been thrown into a pit, sold as a slave to Egypt, separated from family and friends, and even in Egypt imprisoned for a time. In his afflictions, Joseph never lost sight of the truth of the sovereignty of God. God, he says, was the One Who brought all those calamities to pass. And God did it for good. Not only did Joseph confess God's sovereignty, but it is plain that he enjoyed the comfort of the sovereignty of God.

b. Job 1:21. And Job said, Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.
Job 2:10. But he (Job) said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips.

Job spoke these words at a time in his life when he was enduring extreme suffering. He had lost all his earthly possessions, his cattle, his servants, and even his ten children. Satan and Job's enemies had been the instruments to bring this suffering into his life. But Job understood the truth of the sovereignty of God. Behind Satan and the wicked Sabeans and Chaldeans, Job saw the mighty hand of God. He does not say: "The Lord gave, and the devil and my enemies have now taken it all away." Oh no! "The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away." Not only had Job received good at the hand of God (riches, cattle, servants, and children), but he had also received evil (the loss of all these things) from the hand of God.


6. God's sovereignty over sin and the sinner.

a. Genesis 45:7, 8. And God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God: and he hath made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and ruler throughout all the land of Egypt.

Not only was it great suffering for Joseph that he was sold as a slave into Egypt, but his being sold was due to the sinfulness of his brothers. Yet, Joseph was able to see the sovereignty of God ruling even over the sinful deed of his brothers. Very really it was the brothers who had sent Joseph down into Egypt. But Joseph, because he understood the truth of God's sovereignty, teaches that it was God Who had sent him down to Egypt.

b. II Samuel 16:10. And the king (David) said, What have I to do with you, ye sons of Zeruiah? So let him (Shimei) curse, because the Lord hath said unto him, Curse David. Who shall then say, Wherefore hast thou done so?

At the time David spoke these words, he was fleeing from his own son Absalom who had usurped the throne. Added to his suffering of having to flee for his life from his own son, he was also made to suffer the reproach and blasphemy of wicked Shimei. Two of David's faithful captains, the brothers Joab and Abishai, wanted to kill Shimei for his wicked reproach of David. But David forbade them because "... the Lord hath said unto him, Curse David." Behind the sinful deed of Shimei, David saw the sovereign hand of God. David was content that the sovereign God would avenge the sin of Shimei in His own time and in His own way.

c. Isaiah 45:7. I form the light and create darkness: I make peace and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.

In this passage the Lord Himself is speaking. He affirms His sovereignty over evil: "I ... create evil." If the Lord creates evil, certainly He is sovereign over the evil.

d. Amos 3:6. Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? Shall there be evil in the city, and the Lord hath not done it?

As certainly as the blowing of the warning trumpet made the inhabitants of a city afraid of the attack of the enemy; so certainly when there is evil in a city, that evil is brought by the Lord. The Lord appoints the evil, brings the evil, and controls the evil.

e. Luke 22:22. And truly the Son of Man goeth, as it was determined: but woe unto that man by whom he is betrayed.
Acts 2:23. Him (Christ) being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain.

Both of these texts teach the sovereignty of God over the very worst sin ever committed - the crucifying of Jesus Christ. Wicked men crucified Him and were to blame, to be sure, for their sinful deed. But even Christ's crucifixion took place according to the sovereign appointment and under the almighty control of God. If God was sovereign over the worst sin, certainly He is sovereign over all sin.


C. Objections

Historically especially two objections have been lodged against the Reformed teaching of the sovereignty of God. It has been charged that to teach God's sovereignty is to make God the author of sin. And it has been charged that to teach God's sovereignty is to deny man's responsibility.


1. If God is sovereign, He is the author of sin. This is the contention of the enemies of the Reformed faith. The argument is that if God has willed and by His almighty power brings about the evil, God is to blame for the evil in the world. Since God is perfect, completely without any sin, He cannot be sovereign.

There are some who have attempted to reconcile this seeming contradiction by teaching that God in His sovereignty only permits sin. Although He actively wills the good, He only passively allows the evil to take place. This is an unsatisfactory explanation. For one thing it does not resolve the problem. If I permit someone to be run over by a truck, when I could have warned that person or prevented him from being run over, I am as responsible for his injury as if I had deliberately run over him myself. The point is that if God permits sin, when He could prevent it, the same charge can be brought that God is responsible for sin.

But besides not solving the difficulty, to speak of God only permitting sin and evil does not do justice to the teaching of the Scriptures with regard to the sovereignty of God. God did not simply permit the devil to afflict Job, but, says Job, "The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away." God did not simply permit the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, but Christ's crucifixion took place according to the "determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God" (Acts 2:23).

Our answer to the objection is that God is sovereign, sovereign even over sin and evil, but sovereign over sin and evil in such a way that He is not the author of nor can be charged with the sins that wicked men commit (Ezek. 18:25-30; Acts 2:23, 24; Rom. 9:10-18). Although God is sovereign over sin, the sinner sins willingly, desires to sin, delights in sin, and actively commits the sin. He is not compelled against his will to sin. He is not forced to sin although he does not want to sin. God effects the evil in such a way that Satan and wicked men willingly perform it. As James says in James 1:13, 14, "Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed."

That God is not to be charged with being the author of sin is further evident from His purpose in decreeing sin. In distinction from Satan and wicked men, God's purpose with sin is a good purpose. His purpose is His own glory through the demonstration of the glorious perfections of His Being. His purpose is the demonstration of His power that is able to make even sin and the sinner subservient to His will. His purpose is the demonstration of His righteousness which demands and accomplishes satisfaction for sin. His purpose is the demonstration of His free grace that saves not good people but unworthy sinners in the cross of Christ. God's purpose in decreeing sin is the revelation of His Son Jesus Christ, the Savior from sin.


2. If God is sovereign, man is not responsible for his sin.

This is the second objection that is often made against the teaching of the sovereignty of God. The argument is that if God sovereignly wills and brings about sin and evil, man cannot be held accountable for the evil that he does. After all, since God sovereignly willed that he sin, what else could he do but sin?

The apostle Paul deals with this objection to divine sovereignty in Romans 9. In verse 19 the objection is brought: "Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he (God) yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?" What is Paul's answer to this objection? Does he concede the objection? Not at all. Listen: "Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?" (v. 20).

God is sovereign, sovereign even over sin and the sinner. But God is sovereign over sin and the sinner in such a way that the sinner himself always remains responsible before God for his sin. Yes, the Son of Man goes to the cross as it was determined by God: "But woe unto that man by whom he is betrayed" (Luke 22:22). To be sure, Christ is delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, but it is also true that "wicked hands" are responsible for His being crucified and slain (Acts 2:23).

Nor is this ever a real problem for the sinner. In our everyday life we experience no tension between God's sovereignty and our own responsibility. Although we believe that all things are under the sovereign control of God, we know that when we do wrong, we are responsible for the wrong we have done. We feel the guilt and must also face the consequences. In a way that surpasses our ability to comprehend it, God is absolutely sovereign and man is responsible for his sin.


D. Denials of God's Sovereignty

The denial of the truth of the sovereignty of God takes many forms. There are theological denials and more practical denials.


1. Communist totalitarianism.

According to Communist theory, the state and the idea of the state is sovereign. The state owns everything. The state controls every area of life. The interests of the state are the only interests that are of any importance. This is a fundamental attack on the sovereignty of God. It is giving to the state those things that belong only to God. Given this teaching of Communism, it is not surprising that the Communist states have shown themselves hostile to Christianity. Communism is, in fact, inherently anti-God and anti-Christian.


2. Evolutionism.

The teaching of evolution is that the world came into existence by mere chance. The continued existence of the world is due to the outworking of fixed natural laws and blind fate. Evolution is a fundamental denial of the sovereignty of God. It denies His sovereign power in creating the heavens and earth. It also denies the sovereignty of God in the upholding of the universe and the directing of the course of the world's history. There can be no compromise between the Reformed faith and evolution. The god of evolution, if there is one, is not the sovereign God of the Bible. Those who today are attempting to compromise these two are guilty of attacking the very heart of the Reformed faith - the sovereignty of God. If concessions are made to the theory of evolution, the truth of God's sovereignty is bartered away for a mess of humanistic pottage.


3. Pelagianism, Semi-Pelagianism, Arminianism, the free offer of the gospel, and free will.

All of these false teachings, which will be discussed in more detail in the following chapters, have in common that they deny the sovereignty of God, particularly His sovereignty in the salvation of lost sinners. According to all these views, although God sincerely desires the salvation of all men, He is unable actually to accomplish the salvation of anyone. Although God wants to save a man, that man is in himself powerful enough to resist God's saving grace and frustrate God's intention to save him. Even after God has begun to save a man, regenerated him, given him His Holy Spirit and the gift of faith, it is possible for the man to fall away from grace and salvation, a falling away which God is unable to prevent. This is a blatant denial of God's sovereignty in salvation. It is no surprise that where these untruths have been accepted, there the teaching of the absolute sovereignty of God is no longer heard.


4. Deism.

This teaching, more philosophy than religion, arose about the time of the American Revolution, especially in France. It taught that God exists and that He created the world but that He has at present no relation to the world. In other words, it denied that God is everywhere present in the creation and that He is the God of providence, upholding and ruling all things in creation by His almighty power. Over against the truth of God's sovereignty, then, it taught that though God may be sovereign, His sovereignty has no significance in time and history and for man's life, but that all things develop according to natural laws, and that it is up to man to determine his own destiny.

This denial of God's sovereignty needs to be mentioned because it was the "religion" of the men who were the leaders of the American Revolution and who wrote the Declaration of Independence and the American Constitution, men like Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and James Madison. So it is that the American Constitution and other documents connected with the history of the United States of America are founded on deist principles rather than on the biblical teaching of God's sovereignty.

This is clear especially from the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

So also it is this view that lies at the basis of the proud statement with which the Preamble to the American Constitution begins: "We the people...."

Apart from the fact that it simply is neither true nor biblical that all men are created equal and have certain unalienable rights (Deut. 7:6; Dan. 2:21; Luke 1:52; I Cor. 1:26), it is a blatant denial of God's sovereignty to teach that government derives its power from the consent of he governed and not from God (cf. Rom. 13:1-7), and, as the Declaration goes on to say, that "it is the right of the people to alter and abolish it (government), and to institute new government" as they see fit (paragraph 13).

The idea, then, that is so common today, that the American Constitution and Declaration are "Christian" documents is utterly false, and the simple fact that God is mentioned in them should not mislead us.

Along these same lines, we must condemn every form of rebellion and resistance against God-instituted government as a denial of the sovereign power and right of God as outlined in the first part of Romans 13.


5. Feminism.

The "heresy" of feminism which has swept through both human society and the church is also a denial of God's sovereignty, for it denies not just the headship of the man over the woman, but the headship of God, which is reflected in the man's headship over the woman, and which is the foundation for his headship. Nor is it surprising that this feminism has gained such a hold in the church, when the church for the most part no longer believes in the sovereignty of God.

That feminism is a denial of God's headship and thus also of His sovereignty is clear from those passages which show that the woman in submitting to the headship of the man submits also to God in Christ (I Cor. 11:3; Eph. 5:22, 24; Col. 3:18).


6. Our practice.

We are also, from a practical point of view, tempted to deny the sovereignty of God. It is one thing to confess this truth intellectually and abstractly. It is quite another thing to acknowledge this truth when the sovereignty of God touches our own lives personally. It is one thing to confess that God sovereignly rules over all things so that nothing takes place by chance but according to His appointment. It is another thing to confess God's sovereignty when our crops have been devastated, our home destroyed, or we have lost our job. It is one thing to confess that the evils of this life are included in the sovereignty of God. It is another thing to confess the sovereignty of God at the graveside of a loved one. It is one thing to confess the sovereignty of God in salvation. It is quite another thing to confess the sovereignty of God when we see His sovereignty in salvation being worked out in our own congregation, our own families, and even among our own children.

It takes the grace of God to confess and to submit to the sovereignty of God. It takes grace to confess that all things, and our own lives too, are under His control and subject to His will. It takes grace to confess, "The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord." Apart from sovereign grace, no man will ever confess the sovereignty of God. That a man does confess the sovereignty of God is itself due to God's sovereignty.


E. Practical Importance

The practical importance of the truth of the sovereignty of God cannot be over-emphasized.


1. God's sovereignty and worship.

Belief in God's sovereignty underlies the true worship of God. In the very first commandment of God's law we are confronted with the truth of God's sovereignty. Since God is God and God alone, He ought to be worshipped by us. Since God alone is sovereign, He alone ought to be worshipped. And if our worship is to be proper worship, worship that exalts His greatness and acknowledges our unworthiness and inability, it must be worship at the heart of which is the confession of the sovereignty of God.

And God's sovereignty not only demands that He be worshipped, but determines as well the way in which we are to worship Him. If God is sovereign, He must not and cannot be represented by dumb images that cannot think, speak, or perform one action. If God is sovereign, the almighty "I AM THAT I AM," our worship of Him must be reverent. The lack of reverence in so much of what passes for worship today is symptomatic of the loss in the churches of the doctrine of God's sovereignty.


2. God's sovereignty and the glory of God.

Certainly the importance of the truth of God's sovereignty is that it glorifies God. If the almighty power of God stands behind all that takes place in the world and is the cause of salvation besides, God is to be glorified. None of the glory belongs to man, or to any other creature. Glory to God alone! This is man's great calling. Why has he been put on this earth? Why has God saved him? Why has God given him all that he has? So that he will glorify God. And He deserves that glory because He is sovereign.


3. God's sovereignty and history.

An understanding of the truth of God's sovereignty is important for a proper view of history and so is of great importance for Christian education. History is only properly understood and properly taught when history is viewed as the outworking of the sovereign counsel of God. God is in control and God is executing His will. God sets up kings and casts kings down from their thrones. God brings nations to power and causes their overthrow. God raised up Pharaoh, used him for His own purpose, and when He was finished, drowned him in the Red Sea. Similarly God brought Hitler to power, was sovereign over the blood-shed and devastation he perpetrated, and in the end, after Hitler had served God's purpose, brought his Third Reich to ruin. In the truest sense of the word, history is His story.


  1. 5. God's sovereignty and assurance.

The truth of God's sovereignty is the foundation of the comfort of the people of God. Only if we know that God is in control, our God, the God who is our Father for Jesus' sake, can we have the assurance that all is well. If there is some other power in this world besides the almighty power of our God, some power over which God does not have control, we must be fearful and afraid. But there is no such other power. God is sovereign, absolutely sovereign, sovereign even over sin and evil, the devil and wicked men. That gives us the assurance that "all things work together for (our) good" (Rom. 8:28). Then we may be "persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 8:38, 39).


5. God's sovereignty and our preservation.

Belief in the sovereignty of God is necessary for the assurance of the Christian's preservation in salvation and for the assurance of the final salvation of the church as a whole. If God is not sovereign, we must always be in doubt concerning our personal salvation, as well as the salvation of the entire church. In fact, if God is not sovereign, the salvation of even one child of God is impossible. Only the sovereign power of God is able to defend the Christian from the power of the devil, the world, and his own sinful flesh. Because God is sovereign, absolutely sovereign, the church's salvation is secure. The sovereignty of God gives the believer the assurance that "He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1:6).


F. Relation to the Five Points

The relation between the truth of God's sovereignty and the Five Points of Calvinism is twofold. On the one hand, the basis for the Five Points is the sovereignty of God. On the other hand, the Five Points serve to illustrate clearly the truth that God is a sovereign God. To confess the Five Points of Calvinism is to confess the sovereignty of God. There can be no belief in the Five Points apart from a strong belief in the sovereignty of God.

This can be easily seen. Because man is totally depraved, only the sovereign power of God can save him. Because God is sovereign, He chooses to save whom He wills to save, and there are no conditions or works men fulfill in order to earn their own salvation. Because God is sovereign, the atonement (redemption) accomplished by the death of Christ was effectual, actually saving those whom it was intended to save. Because God is sovereign, His gracious operations in the salvation of men are irresistible. Because God is sovereign, the saints personally and the church as a whole will be preserved and as a result of that preservation will persevere to the end.


Questions from the Study Guide to aid in understanding and review.


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Chapter 2

Total Depravity

The doctrine of total depravity is the first of the Five Points of Calvinism and is represented by the letter T in the memory-help TULIP.

In the Canons of Dordt, the original Five Points, total depravity is not the first point. Unconditional election, represented by the U of TULIP, is first. The reason for this is historical. At the time the Canons were written it was the doctrine of unconditional election that was being attacked more than any other doctrine, and it was that doctrine, therefore, that was defended first.

There is good reason, however, for putting total depravity first. Because the doctrine of total depravity describes man's sinfulness and wretched condition, it shows the need for the grace of God that is described in the other four points. And, certainly, we must see our need before we can have any appreciation for the grace of God that brings salvation. In other words, we must have a correct diagnosis of man's spiritual condition in the first point in order to see that the remedy prescribed by the other four points is the correct remedy. For this reason especially it is best to begin with total depravity and not with unconditional election.


A. The Doctrine

1. Depravity.

This doctrine is sometimes called "total inability," emphasizing correctly sinful man's inability to do good. This name, however, is deficient in this respect, that it describes man's wickedness only as a lack of good, while the opposite is also true. Sinful man not only lacks the good but is actively and willingly evil, and since the word depravity does emphasize this, total depravity is the better name.

So, when we describe man's sinfulness as depravity, we are not just saying that he is bad or wicked, but that he is rebelliously and deliberately evil, that he loves and delights in wickedness of every kind. He is not just passively overcome by sin but actively and willingly uses his strength, ability, and gifts to sin.

The idea is, then, that men are very wicked, much more wicked than they themselves would ever admit. Nor is this wickedness accidental, but deeply imbedded in what a man is, what we call his "nature." In other words, his depravity is not something he has learned or that is the result of his environment, but he is by nature wicked. He does not just do evil but is evil. He is conceived and born a sinner.

The explanation for this is "original sin." By original sin we refer to the sin of man in Adam and every man's responsibility for the sin that Adam committed. Adam did not stand in Paradise as a private individual, his deeds having consequences for himself alone. But Adam stood in Paradise as the head and representative of us all. He was the king of the earthly creation. Being a king, what he did affected all those over whom he was king. The result was that when Adam sinned, we sinned. His sin was reckoned by God to be our sin. This is clearly the teaching of Romans 5:12: "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned." (Cf. also I Cor. 15:22.)

The result was further that the punishment of Adam's sin was visited by God upon all men. All men have sinned in Adam, and all men share in the punishment of that sin. The punishment was death. That had been God's threat: "For in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die" (Gen. 2:17). God carried out that threat. Man died - God killed him. One aspect of that death, now, is what the Bible refers to as spiritual death, the loss of man's spiritual life, his total depravity. God punished sin with sin.

So sinful is man by nature that he is dead in sin: "And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins" (Eph. 2:1). Man is not merely sick, very sick, even critically sick. But he is dead. There is no spiritual life in him whatsoever. Being dead, he has no ability to raise himself to spiritual life, to cooperate in his spiritual resurrection, or even to desire it. From a human point of view, his condition is hopeless.


2. Total depravity.

To speak of total depravity, then, is a bit redundant. This language is used, however, to emphasize that man is so wicked that he lacks any good and even the ability to do good or to want what is good. This emphasis is necessary because of the many ways in which the doctrine of total depravity is denied.

Usually three things are meant by the word total:

a. Total depravity means, first of all, that the totality of the human race is depraved. There is no one, not even a newborn infant, who is not so corrupted and wicked. Nor are there any primitive people who still live in some kind of "innocence." All are depraved.

b. Total depravity means also that every part of man's existence is filled with wickedness. In other words, not only his actions are wicked, but his speech, his thoughts, his motives, his wishes, his mind, his soul, his spirit, everything he is and does, inwardly and outwardly. He cannot do, desire, or even understand what is good.

c. Total depravity also means that every part of man's existence is completely wicked. That is to say, his mind is not partly wicked and partly good, but totally wicked. And the same is true of every part of his existence, especially of his will. His will is in bondage so that he cannot even want what is good, nor is there any desire for good to be found in his life and thoughts.

This does not mean that every man shows the evil of his sinful nature as much as possible and at all times. Not everyone has the opportunity or means to do so, or even the time in his brief life span. Also, God Himself puts various restraints on men to prevent them from doing all the wickedness that is in their hearts. Among these restraints are the fear of punishment, the desire for the approval of others, and the strictures of government and civil law. But it must be emphasized that these restraints are outward restraints only, something on the order of a muzzle on the jaws of a mad dog, and that they do not in any way lessen the actual wickedness of man or change his wicked heart or make it possible for him to do good. Man is, therefore, as bad as he can be, though he does not always show it and often hides it.

Now, it must be remembered that this is not a judgment any man would make or wants to make of himself or of others. Nor is this a judgment that can be made by observation. The reason for this is also to be found in man's depravity. Just as a blind man cannot fully understand his own blindness because he has never been able to see, so the sinner cannot comprehend his own sinfulness and always thinks well of himself (cf. Jer. 17:9, below). Therefore, the judgment of man's spiritual state can be made only by God Himself. God makes that judgment in His Word and makes it by comparing men to the standard of His own holiness, not to any social standard, or to other men. In fact, God's holiness and perfection are the only standard against which the doctrine of total depravity can be true, and we must learn the truth of total depravity from the Bible and not from our own observations of ourselves or of others.


B. Scripture Passages

1. References to total depravity.

a. Genesis 6:5. And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

Notice here the emphasis on the totality of man's depravity. When Scripture says that man's wickedness is "great," it explains this to mean "total." And this is God's own judgment of man's condition ("God saw ..."). It may not be our judgment and we may not agree with it, but that makes no difference.

b. Genesis 8:21. And the Lord smelled a sweet savour; and the Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake; for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done.

Scripture once again here records God's judgment of man's spiritual condition and this time shows that man's depravity is not merely something that belongs to his maturity but characterizes his life from its beginning.

c. Job 15:14-16. What is man, that he should be clean? and he which is born of a woman, that he should be righteous? Behold, he putteth no trust in his saints; yea, the heavens are not clean in his sight. How much more abominable and filthy is man, which drinketh iniquity as water.

Here the Word of God reminds us that man's wickedness is as natural to him and as much a part of his life as drinking water. And once again the emphasis is on God as the standard by which man is judged, even when in his own sight he may be clean.

d. Psalm 14:1-3. The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good. The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.

Here depravity is described as something that characterizes the whole human race. In that respect also it is total. Notice the fivefold emphasis on the fact that no one does any good. This too is the judgment of God when He looks down on the human race. Here also, then, our thinking must be shaped by the Word of God and not by what we ourselves or anyone else may think.

e. Jeremiah 4:22. For my people is foolish, they have not know me; they are sottish children, and they have no understanding: they are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge.

Depravity, according to this passage is so great that even God's people of themselves do not know how to do good. But this passage is also valuable because it reminds us that man is depraved not only in his actions, but even in his mind, knowledge, and understanding.

f. Jeremiah 13:23. Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? Then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to evil.

It is as impossible for man, in his own strength, to do any good as it is for him to change the color of his skin. That is the truth of total depravity - not just that man does not do good but that he cannot. Thus, this passage also teaches us that man's depravity is natural to him.

g. Jeremiah 17:9, 10. The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? I, the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give to every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.

God asserts here His right as judge and also gives His judgment telling us that our depravity does not merely consist in outwardly wicked actions but that it is finally a matter of our hearts, which are the fountain of all our life (Prov. 4:23), so that the fountain itself being impure it is impossible that anything clean or good should come forth from it.

h. John 3:3, 5. Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.... Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.

Jesus tells Nicodemus and us here that we cannot even see (understand) the kingdom of God except by a miracle and that miracle must be the miracle of a whole new life. As far as the life we now live is concerned, there is no hope. This, of course, is the application of the doctrine of total depravity that must be made. It is not just a doctrine but a description of our hopeless condition.

i. John 6:44. No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.

This passage is concerned with faith, described here as "coming to Jesus." This coming to Jesus or believing, Jesus says, is impossible except by the power of God. No man has that power of himself. This passage is especially important because so many Christians have the mistaken idea that believing is the one good action that sinful man can do. The Word of God here says that it is not so.

j. John 12:37-39. But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him: that the saying of Esaias (Isaiah) the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.

Here again the emphasis of the Scriptures is on man's total inability to believe apart from the grace of God, but we also find here that this depravity of man is the direct result of God's judgment upon man and does not just happen to be the case with him. His depravity is, then, the death with which God threatened him in the beginning.

k. Romans 1:28-32. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind to do those things that are not convenient; being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.

Here the Word of God establishes the fact that man's will is not at all inclined toward God ("they did not like to retain God in their knowledge"), but toward evil. In fact, we read here that men not only do evil but delight in it, even though they know the judgment of God. And the preceding context supports this fully by showing that the worship of the heathen is not a seeking after God, or longing for him, but a changing of the truth of God into a lie.

l. Romans 3:9-19. What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles that they are all under sin; as it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are all together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: their feet are swift to shed blood: destruction and misery are in their ways: and the way of peace they have not known: there is no fear of God before their eyes. Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.

The apostle Paul is quoting here from eight different Old Testament passages to prove the depravity of man. That, in itself, is a powerful testimony to the fact that all the Scriptures teach this doctrine. But he shows especially both that all are under sin and that this is due to the fact that all are guilty before God. He also shows from the Scriptures that both in relation to God and to men, in understanding, speech, and deeds, man is wicked. That is the third aspect of total depravity of which we spoke above.

m. Romans 6:16-19. Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey: whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness. I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to unrighteousness and to iniquity unto iniquity: even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness.

Here Paul describes man's inability to do good as a kind of spiritual slavery, which indeed it is, for in sin we not only refuse to have God as our Master but give our members, that is, ourselves, to the service of sin and Satan, nor can we serve God any more.

n. Romans 8:7, 8. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.

Once again the Scriptures show that man does not just do evil, perhaps without even intending it, but that he is evil and that his evil-doing is always conscious, active rebellion ("enmity") against God. And again, not only is he not subject to God and not pleasing to God, but he cannot be. He has no ability to do or be good.

o. Galatians 3:22. But the Scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.

Here is proof that sin is slavery, that depravity is total in the sense that it is true of all men, and that this is not our judgment of ourselves and others, but Scripture's judgment.

p. Ephesians 2:1, 5. And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins.... Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved).

This time our depravity is described as a spiritual death to help us understand that no more than a dead man can think, will, understand, speak, or act can we think, will, understand, speak, or act in a way that is pleasing to God - not without grace and salvation. This passage is proof, therefore also that total depravity and spiritual death are one and the same.

q. Colossians 2:13. And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses.

This passage reproduces almost word for word Ephesians 2:1, 5, but we should also note the emphasis on the word "you" in both passages. Paul is reminding us that total depravity does not apply just to the heathen or to savages, but to civilized, educated members of the church, such as these Colossians and such as we.

r. Titus 3:3. For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another.

Once again the emphasis lies on the fact that we must confess the truth of total depravity not just of men in general or of other men, but of ourselves. Otherwise it is not total depravity.


2. References to original sin.

a. Genesis 5:3. And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, after his image; and called his name Seth.

What a testimony this is against man who was created in the image of God but who now begets children, not in God's image, but in his own! We have seen in all the preceding passages what that image is!

b. Job 14:4. Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one.

Not only does this passage teach that it is impossible for a sinner to produce anything good as far as his own words, thoughts, and actions are concerned, but it shows that he cannot even produce offspring who are any different from himself. As the Canons of Dordt say: "A corrupt stock produced a corrupt offspring."

c. Psalm 51:5. Behold I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.

Here, once more, is the truth that wickedness is not something learned but hereditary and original, attaching itself to the infant still within the womb. Also, we should note that "in sin" does not mean that the act of procreation and conception are sinful but that we are conceived and born utterly sinful, slaves of Satan - that our whole lives are "in sin."

d. Psalm 58:3. The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.

This text proves that even the depravity of infants is not just a lack of good but an inclination to evil action. And indeed, one has only to observe small children to see that they know how to lie naturally and go astray from God naturally. In fact, they can be taught to speak the truth and follow God only with great effort crowned with the grace of God.

e. Romans 5:12. Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.

This passage not only teaches that spiritual death or depravity is hereditary but that it is hereditary because all men have sinned and therefore are guilty in Adam. That is the essence of the doctrine of original sin and a reminder that man cannot be in any worse condition than he now is before God.

There are, of course, many other passages that could be quoted, but these are the principle passages, and they show that whatever people may think of the doctrine of total depravity, it is, unmistakably, the teaching of the Scriptures.


C. Difficult Passages

There are also a number of Scripture passages which are used against the doctrine of total depravity. We should look at some of these passages and see what they actually teach in order that we may see clearly that the Scriptures do not contradict themselves or teach anything else than man's total depravity.


1. Deuteronomy 29:19.

This verse would seem to teach that natural man (man unsaved) has a free will, that is, that he can at least choose whether or not he wants life or death, blessing or cursing, even though he may not be able to obtain these things by his own strength. If he can do that, he is able to do real good, for there are few things as pleasing to God as choosing life and blessing.

The mistake that is made, however, is that some conclude from verses such as this that the command to choose between life and death implies that men have the power to obey it. That is not true. Man cannot obey anything God commands, but God continues to command it of him and judges him for his disobedience. Nor is it unfair of God to command what man cannot do without God's grace, for it was man who willingly chose his present condition when he fell into sin in the beginning.


2. Joshua 24:15, 22.

Here is another passage that might seem to teach that people not only have the opportunity to choose either the service of God or idolatry but that they are actually able by themselves to choose that service of God. Again, if it be true that men can choose to serve God by the power of their own wills (choosing is the function of the will), then they are able to do some good and cannot be said to be totally depraved.

The solution to this must be found in the context, especially in verse 19, where Joshua tells the people that they cannot serve the Lord, meaning obviously that they cannot do this apart from the grace of God. This text does not mean, then, that God's people, i.e., those who are saved by God's grace, cannot choose to serve God. They do, and they not only choose to serve Him but actually do serve Him, though never without sin. They can do good, therefore, but only then because God Himself has worked in them both to will and to do His good pleasure. Apart from God's grace Joshua's words are always true: "Ye cannot serve the Lord."


3. II Kings 10:28, 30.

The argument here is that Jehu, though he himself was a wicked man, was nevertheless able to do good by doing what God had commanded when he destroyed the whole family of wicked Ahab. It is very clear, however, that Jehu did not do this out of love for God, for he himself re-established the worship of the golden calves, which Jeroboam had originally set up to keep the people from the worship of God in Jerusalem (I Kings 12:26-28). Rather, he did it only for himself, to secure for himself the kingdom. And the Bible teaches us that whatever is not done for the glory of God, even though it be what God commands, is neither obedience nor good in the sight of God (Matt. 22:37, 38; 23:25-28; Rom. 14:23; I Cor. 10:31).


4. Acts 2:40.

Here again, the command to the people gathered for Pentecost to save themselves does not imply that they have the ability to do that. In fact, the Word of God makes it very clear that no man has that power in himself (Eph. 2:8-10).


5. Acts 16:31.

What we have just said applies to faith also. The command to believe does not imply that all men who hear that command have the ability to obey or that their believing depends upon their choice whether or not they will do it. The passage cited above, Ephesians 2:8-10, emphatically says that faith is a gift of God.


6. Romans 2:14, 15.

Though this passage says that the Gentiles, that is, the heathen, do the works of the law and have the work of the law written in their hearts, it does not say that this is in any way good in the sight of God. Actually, the opposite is true, that they are all under sin (Rom. 3:9), and their doing the works of the law is their condemnation and leaves them without excuse (Rom. 1:19, 20). So, here again the context makes it very clear that this passage does not at all contradict the truth of total depravity but rather supports it.

Many other passages could be cited in this connection, but the main two points are clear, first, that the commands of God do not imply that man has the power to obey them, and second, that mere outward conformity to the law of God is not good as far as God is concerned but a very great abomination.


D. Objections

1. Total depravity is a depressing doctrine.

One objection to the doctrine of total depravity that is often heard is that it destroys people's happiness and peace and leads them to despair. If this is true, then the doctrine cannot possibly be biblical, for the teaching of the Bible is designed to be "good news" and to lead to the greatest happiness and blessing (Ps. 29:11; 119:165; II Cor. 1:3, 4).

That this is not true is due to the fact that the doctrine of total depravity is never preached apart from all the other doctrines of grace, and in connection with the doctrine of grace it is, as we have seen, the divine "diagnosis" which must precede the application of a proper remedy to the sinner. Without such a correct diagnosis the remedy will never even be recognized or received.

The Scriptures themselves show this. In Luke 5:32, Jesus says: "I came not to call the righteous (that is, those who thought that they were righteous), but sinners (that is, those who know themselves to be sinners) to repentance." The parable of the Pharisee and the publican was specifically addressed to "certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others" (Luke 18:9). In that parable, it was the man who acknowledged himself such a sinner as we have described that went home justified. The Pharisee, who did not know himself to be totally depraved, did not.


2. Total depravity contradicts our experience.

Another objection that is sometimes adduced against the biblical teaching of total depravity is that it contradicts our experience. People just do not appear to be as bad as the Bible seems to indicate they are. This is apparently even more of a problem when one looks at the "good" deeds, the works of charity and philanthropy, that people do.

There are several things we must remember in answering this objection. First of all, we must remember that even our ability to see and judge sin is affected by our own sinfulness. One of the great characteristics of the sinner is that he is spiritually blind, not just to his own sin, but also to the sinfulness of mankind. His heart deceives him also in this (Jer. 17:9).

We need to remember, too, that we see only the outward deeds a person does. We cannot see his heart and cannot, therefore, know anything about his motives in doing even works of charity and philanthropy. And the Word says that anything which is not done out of faith, with thanks, and for the glory of God is sin (Is. 66:3; Rom. 1:20, 21; 14:23; I Cor. 10:31).

What is more, when our experience seems to contradict the Word of God at this or any point, there is no question what we must believe. The Word of God must stand and before it even our experience must bow.


E. Denials of Total Depravity

Through the history of the church there have been many attacks on the doctrine of total depravity and many different ways in which the doctrine has been denied. It is good to know something about these errors because they are still being taught today. However, we will study them not by way of criticizing any particular person who may believe differently, but so that we ourselves are firmly grounded in the truth (Col. 2:7).


1. Pelagianism.

The oldest of the heresies which deny total depravity is the error of Pelagianism, named after the British monk who first taught it in the fifth century, A.D. This error is mentioned seven times by name in the Canons of Dordt.

Pelagianism teaches that Adam's sin had no consequences for his descendants and that therefore all men are born spiritually neutral, neither good nor bad, and that it is possible that they live an entirely sinless life. Even having sinned, according to Pelagius, it is possible for man to return to harmony with God by his own will and good works, and if he receives God's grace, it is only an assisting grace, not an efficacious (powerful unto salvation) grace. The fact that most men are sinners is to be explained only by their imitating others and not by any inherent or natural tendency toward sin.

This error is still taught today in many forms. It is really the error that lies behind modern educational philosophy, modern psychology and psychiatry, and modern judicial theory. These all hold that man's only problem is that he learns (by imitation or from his environment) wrong patterns of behavior, which must be changed and can be changed by education, rehabilitation, or psychiatric counselling. A very good example of this philosophy is the modern idea that criminals ought not be punished but rehabilitated. This, of course, is humanism through and through, but Pelagianism and humanism are really the same thing. In both cases sin is not seen as sin against God, the total depravity of man is not recognized, and his faults are only viewed as social failures.

The chief problem is, however, that much of the church world has accepted this humanistic and Pelagian philosophy. It is taught, for example, by those who advocate a "self-help" gospel, or a gospel of "positive thinking," which teaches that man is basically good, must not think guilty thoughts, and can save himself by his own willpower. It is accepted by those who see the calling of the church not as the calling to preach the gospel but to do away with slums, poverty, sickness, segregation, and other such social evils, i.e., to change man's bad environment. It is basic to the notion that the church's fight is the fight against earthly oppression. It is the essence of so-called liberation theology, i.e., that salvation consists in the liberation of all the poor and oppressed peoples of the world. All such teaching is Pelagian in that it does not recognize man's spiritually fallen condition and believes that he is fully able to help himself and deliver himself from his problems. In addition, of course, there is a Pelagian tendency in all of us in that we often fail to see our own sin and its seriousness and try so often to find our own way out of our sin problems. That is why Pelagianism is so dangerous.


2. Semi-Pelagianism.

Semi-Pelagianism is a modified form of Pelagianism that was taught in the church after Augustine. Due to his influence the church first rejected Pelagianism but later compromised and began to teach what is called Semi-Pelagianism. This is still today the theology of the Roman Catholic Church.

Semi-Pelagianism says that Adam's fall did have an affect upon Adam's descendants and that they are born sinners. However, Semi-Pelagianism teaches that the effect of Adam's fall is not that men are totally depraved, or dead in sin, but that they are only sick in sin. In other words, man still has some ability to do good, just as a sick man still has some power. Semi-Pelagianism even teaches that man is so sick in sin, that though he can do good, he cannot actually save himself. Nevertheless, apart from saving grace, he is able to do good works and to earn some favor with God (the Roman Catholic doctrine of meritorious good works). All this is possible because God gives what is called "prevenient grace" to all men without exception, that is, grace which makes it possible for them to do good and to merit without receiving saving grace.


3. Arminianism.

Arminianism is a further modification of Semi-Pelagianism that is taught in Protestant circles. It is also named after the man who first taught it, Jacobus Arminius. It was against his teaching that the Canons of Dordt were written. For a good understanding of Arminianism one should consult the negative (Rejection of Errors) sections of the Canons. Arminianism is different from Pelagianism only in this respect, that it rejects the idea that men can do all sorts of meritorious good works and teaches that there is but one good thing that he can do by his own power, that is the good work of choosing Christ, or of believing in Him. In other words, the principal teaching of Arminianism is that man has a free will and that he is not totally the slave of sin. It teaches that man's will is hindered by sin but that God gives grace to all men sufficient to remove these hindrances so that men can, by their own power, choose for or against God. The difference, then, between Roman Catholic Semi-Pelagianism and Arminianism is that in Semi-Pelagianism salvation is of him that runneth and in Arminianism it is of him that willeth (cf. Rom. 9:16). In neither case is it of God who shows mercy.

This is, by and large, the belief of the majority of Christians today, though there are exceptions. The whole theology, for example, of "decisions for Christ," of "accepting Christ," of "opening one's heart to Christ," of the altar call, and of the "Jesus is waiting" type of preaching presupposes that man has yet some ability and freedom of will unto salvation. And faith, then, is not a gift of God, primarily, but man's own good work.

It is not difficult to see that this is not the doctrine of total depravity.

Nor is this merely a doctrinal issue. This teaching, among other things, changes the very character of gospel preaching, so that the preaching becomes an attempt to sell Christ to men and to persuade them to accept Him, instead of the proclaiming of the glory and grace of God.


4. Common grace.

The theology which teaches a common grace of God also denies total depravity. It admits that man has no power to do what is called saving good, that is, the good of choosing for God and for Christ and for salvation. It says, however, that there is a certain grace of God which is given to all men, even to the unsaved, which makes it possible for them to do what is called civil good, that is, things which though they have no saving value, nevertheless are good in the sight of God in that they promote decency and good order in society and allow men to live in some ways in peace and harmony among themselves. Along with this the doctrine of common grace usually teaches that there is a universal operation of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of all men which makes it possible for them to do this good and which keeps them from being as bad as they might be.

This is really no different from Arminianism in that it says that there is yet some good in man. It may be very little, but it is still good, and obviously, if man can do anything good, he is not totally wicked. But it should also be pointed out that this teaching fails to take into account the fact that there is more to a good deed than just the outward action. The most important thing, in fact, is not the action itself but the motivation for it. If it is not done for God's glory and by faith, it is sin and God hates it (cf. Prov. 21:4; Is. 66:2, 3; Mal. 2:11-13).


5. The free offer of the gospel.

This very common teaching says that the preaching of the gospel constitutes a well-intentioned offer from God to all who hear, i.e., that God, for His part, wants their salvation and even offers it to them.

Now, apart from the fact that the Scriptures never once speak of the gospel as an offer of salvation and apart from the inconsistency of many who believe this and at the same time say that God from eternity does not want the salvation of all who hear the gospel, there is the fact that an offer, if it is to be meaningful, must mean that those to whom the offer is made have some power to accept or refuse that offer. And if man has any power to respond to an offer of grace in the gospel, he cannot be totally depraved. An offer of assistance to a dead man is obviously meaningless, and an offer, to use another example, to teach physics to a retarded person would be mere mockery. God's work is neither meaningless nor mockery.

The answer of many to this dilemma is to say that God gives to all men who hear the gospel a certain preparatory grace or common grace (another version of that doctrine) to make such a choice, but this is simply the old Roman Catholic doctrine and also a denial of the biblical truth that grace is always irresistible and unto salvation.


6. Free will.

Many Christians today believe that man has a free will, that is, he is able to choose between good and evil, between God and the devil, between salvation and damnation. This is the basic teaching of Arminianism but is important enough that it should be mentioned separately. Nor is it much different from the idea that the gospel is an offer of grace. It only looks at the matter from a slightly different viewpoint. This freedom of the will, according to those who believe in it, may be limited, so that the sinner can do nothing more than make the necessary choice. God must do the rest. But once again, it ascribes some ability to do good to fallen man, no matter how limited and small that ability may be. Free will and total depravity, therefore, are not compatible, but opposite doctrines.


7. Absolute depravity.

Some make a distinction between what they call total depravity and something they call absolute depravity. Absolute depravity, they say, is the doctrine we have been describing, which is neither truly Calvinistic nor biblical, that is, that man is utterly bad, without any good or possibility of good to be found in him. Total depravity, in their opinion, only means that men are wicked in every part, heart, soul, mind, and strength, but not completely wicked in any part. One writer uses the example of a few drops of ink in water. Every drop is discolored, but none is completely black. That, supposedly, is total depravity. But apart from the fact that this is mere sophistry (what is the difference between total and absolute?), this clearly cannot be said to be the doctrine of total depravity, since it is not total. Nor is it the doctrine of total depravity that has been taught by Reformed and Presbyterian churches from the time of the Reformation on. Actually, absolute depravity, if it refers to anything, refers to the depravity of the fallen angels for whom there is no hope of salvation.


F. Practical Importance

There are many practical implications of the doctrine of total depravity. It is important that we see some of these implications so that we are persuaded that this doctrine is not a mere abstraction and that debate about it is not just empty talk of no importance.


1. Total depravity and repentance.

The most important practical implication of total depravity for each individual Christian is that knowledge of the doctrine leads to true repentance for sin. Only if we understand that we have no goodness at all and that we are entirely without hope, will we be able to see the greatness of our sin and mourn over it as we should. As long as we think that there is even the least bit of good in us, we will not be inclined to think of our sins or confess them before God.

The opposite is also true. One who does not confess his sins daily before God and mourn for them does not really understand the truth of total depravity, even though he may call himself a Calvinist. Indeed, it may be said, that the proof of our belief in total depravity is our attitude toward our own sins.


2. Total depravity and parental discipline.

In our families it is the doctrine of total depravity that motivates faithful discipline of our children. When we constantly cover up and overlook the sins of our children, make excuses for them, and do not discipline our children as we should, it is because we do not take their sin seriously; and if we do not take their sin seriously, it can be only because we fail to see that they are totally depraved.

The Bible itself makes this connection between the depravity of our children and the necessity of Christian parental discipline in Proverbs 23:14, 15:

Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die.
Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.

Clearly, only the parent who really believes that his child is hellbound in his sins will be able to receive the Word of God in these verses and do it.


3. Total depravity and the gospel.

In the church and on the mission field only the faithful preaching of total depravity will convict the sinner of his need for the cross and insure at the same time that all the glory of his salvation is given to God. We all know from our own experience that as long as we have any strength or resources of our own we do not turn for help to Christ as we should and neither will the unconverted sinner as long as he is told that he has some worthiness or goodness of his own. Also, to the extent that the doctrine of total depravity is neglected in the preaching and that some good is ascribed to the sinner, the honor of God and glory of God as the only Savior are stolen from Him. The doctrine of total depravity, then, can never be a dangerous doctrine in the preaching of the gospel, as some think, but is an integral part of the gospel. This we sing in the beautiful hymn "Beneath the Cross of Jesus":

And from my smitten heart with tears
Two wonders I confess -
The wonder of redeeming love
And my unworthiness.

The wonder of our own depravity and the wonder of salvation by grace go hand in hand. We cannot confess one without the other.


4. Total depravity and the antithesis.

In the world and in relation to wicked men only the truth of total depravity will motivate us to maintain our spiritual separation from the world (sometimes called the antithesis). If we think that there is any good in the ungodly, we will not see any reason to be separate from them. Only when we see that they are "unrighteousness," "darkness," "sons of Belial," "infidels," and "idolaters," will we heed the call to "come out from among them and be separate" (II Cor. 6:14-17). Then and only then we will see that there is no possibility of cooperating with them (II Chron. 19:2), inter-marrying with them (I Cor. 7:39), or keeping fellowship with them (Eph. 5:11).

These are some of the more important implications of the doctrine for our life. May we see in them the importance of holding to this doctrine without compromise or neglect.


G. Relation to the Other Four Points

There is a very close relationship between this first point and the other four points of Calvinism. There are those who call themselves three- or four-point Calvinists and even hold to some degree to these truths, but in the end and because these five truths are so closely interwoven with each other, it is impossible to maintain any of them consistently without maintaining them all.

The relationship is this: the doctrine of total depravity, or, if you will, of total inability, makes sovereign grace the only possible way of salvation and makes necessary an election which is unconditional, not depending on man's work or worthiness, an atonement which does not just make salvation possible for all men but actually saves those whom God has chosen, a grace which is so powerful as to be utterly irresistible, and which saves to the uttermost those who receive it, so that they are preserved and do persevere to the end.


Questions from the Study Guide to aid in understanding and review.


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Chapter 3

Unconditional Election

The doctrine of unconditional election is the second of the Five Points of Calvinism and is represented by the letter U in the acronym TULIP.

The doctrine of predestination, of which election is a part, has been called the heart of the gospel. This is true. The gospel is the good news of salvation. But those who are saved are those who have been predestined unto salvation, that is, the elect. The gospel declares the suffering and death of Jesus Christ for unworthy sinners. But Christ died only for those unworthy sinners who had been chosen by God. The gospel calls men to faith in Jesus Christ. But faith is worked only in the hearts of the elect. The gospel is the means to gather the church. But those who are members of the church, genuine church members, are the elect. There can be no doubt about it that the doctrine of predestination is at the very heart of the gospel message.

It is imperative that every believer have a good understanding of predestination. There is much ignorance and confusion over this doctrine in our day. Besides, there are numerous corruptions and denials of this doctrine in places where historically it was confessed. Many are abandoning the doctrine because they suppose that it is the invention of clever theologians but that it is not taught in the Scriptures. Others, who will admit that predestination is taught in the Bible, allege that it is a doctrine of little or no practical benefit for the church.

These people are seriously mistaken! We must see that the doctrine of election is clearly taught in the Word of God. And we must be convinced that it is a doctrine of the greatest practical value for Christians.

We echo the sentiments of John Calvin:

Let those roar at us who will. We will ever brighten forth, with all our power of language, the doctrine which we hold concerning the free election of God, seeing that it is now only by it that the faithful can understand how great the goodness of God is which effectually called them to salvation.... Now, if we are not really ashamed of the Gospel, we must of necessity acknowledge what is therein openly declared: that God by His eternal goodwill appointed those whom He pleased unto salvation, rejecting all the rest.... (Calvin's Calvinism, p. 31)

A. The Doctrine

1. Statement of the doctrine.

By election we mean the eternal choice by God of certain definite individuals in Jesus Christ unto salvation.

There are many references in the Scriptures to this election or choice by God. It is the Lord Jesus Who declares in Matthew 22:14, "Many are called, but few are chosen (elect)." In Romans 11:5 the apostle Paul writes, "Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace." The same apostle writes in Ephesians 1:4, "According as he hath chosen (elected) us in him before the foundations of the world...." In Colossians 3:12 he exhorts believers, "Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering." In Titus 1:1 reference is made to "... the faith of God's elect." The apostle Peter writes in I Peter 2:9, "But ye are a chosen (elect) generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation...." And in II Peter 1:10 he exhorts Christians, "Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure."

Election is only one aspect of the broader doctrine of predestination. Predestination is God's eternal (pre-) decision with respect to the everlasting destiny (destination) of all His rational, moral creatures, men, angels, and devils. There are many who become uneasy when the word predestination is mentioned. But predestination is not some hideous monster invented by theologians gone over the deep end. The Bible teaches predestination.

The Greek word from which our English word predestination is derived occurs six times in the New Testament. We find it used twice by the apostle Paul in Romans 8:29, 30: "For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified." In Ephesians 1:5 the apostle Paul declares, "Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of his will." Again we read in Ephesians 1:11, "In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will."

The word predestinate is also found in Acts 4:28, where it is translated as "determined before." There the apostle Peter teaches that Christ's crucifixion and the role in Christ's crucifixion played by wicked Herod and Pontius Pilate were predestined by God. In that context, he declares in verse 28 that these wicked rulers were gathered together "to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before (predestined) to be done."

In I Corinthians 2:7 the word predestinate is translated "ordained": "But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom which God ordained (predestined) before the world unto our glory." Here Paul teaches that the whole plan of salvation was predestined by God.


2. Characteristics.

The outstanding characteristics of election include the following:

a. Decretive.

Election is a decree, a decision or choice of God. God elects, and God elects whom He wills to elect. Election is part of the counsel and will of God. In Romans 8:29, 30 we read, "Whom he (God) did predestinate." In Ephesians 1:4 we read, "According as he (God) hath chosen...." Ephesians 1:11 states, "In whom we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him (God) who worketh all things after the counsel of his (God's) own will."

b. Personal.

Election is God's choice of certain definite individuals. Election is not some vague and indefinite decree of God that merely determines that there shall be salvation. Nor is it a decision on the part of God to save a mass of human beings. But election is God's determination to save particular persons. Ephesians 1:4 teaches this: "According as he hath chosen us...." In John 15:16 Jesus says, "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you...." In Romans 9:11-13 the apostle Paul teaches that Jacob, a definite individual, was elected by God, while Esau, a definite individual, was not elected by God.

c. Eternal.

Election is the eternal choice of God of certain persons. Election does not take place in time and history, as God's response to the actions of men, but election is eternal election. Paul writes in Ephesians 1:4, "According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world...." In Revelation 17:8 the apostle John speaks of those "... whose names were written in the book of life from the foundation of the world."

d. Unto salvation.

The purpose of election is the salvation of those persons whom God has eternally chosen. They are not chosen merely to some earthly, temporal privileges, but they are chosen unto salvation itself. In Romans 8:29, 30 those who are predestinated are justified (have their sins forgiven and Christ's righteousness imputed to them) and glorified (go to heaven). In Ephesians 1:5 Paul teaches that we are predestinated "... unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ unto himself." In Revelation 17:8 the elect are said to have their names written in the Book of Life - everlasting life - life with God in the perfection of the new heavens and earth.

e. Gracious.

That a person is elected by God is not due to anything in that person but is due to the free, unmerited grace of God. The cause of election is not at all to be found in those who are elected, but the cause of election lies only in the will of the electing God. Those who are elected are not different or better in themselves than those who are not elected. All men, as was made plain in the previous chapter, are by nature dead in trespasses and sins. That some men, in distinction from others, should be chosen by God to salvation is to be attributed solely to the grace of God. Paul writes in Ephesians 2:8, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God." In Romans 11:5 he speaks of "... a remnant according to the election of grace."

f. Unconditional.

If election is gracious, it follows that it must be unconditional. If election is due alone to the grace of God, it is not conditioned upon anything in man or that man must do. This is a crucial point. There are many who professed to hold to biblical election but who have denied the truth of election by making election conditional. This was the false teaching concerning election propounded by the Arminians at the Synod of Dordt. The Arminians professed to believe in election, but the election that they taught was a conditional election. According to this view God in eternity looked into the future and saw who would believe on Him and who would choose Him. These in turn God chose and elected as His people. Election became God's choosing those who chose Him. But this conception of election will not stand the test of the Scriptures. Speaking of God's election of Jacob and rejection of Esau, Paul writes in Romans 9:11, "For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth...." In John 15:16 the Lord Jesus teaches unconditional election in the clearest of language: "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you." Jesus does not mean to teach here that we do not choose Him. We do choose Jesus Christ. We do desire salvation. We do willingly follow Him as His disciples. But Jesus' concern here is with who chose first and whose choice is decisive. His teaching in John 15:16 is that we choose Him only because of and as the result of His choice of us. Our choice of Him is not the reason for His choice of us; but His choice of us is the explanation of our choice of Him. His choice of us is not dependent on our choice of Him; our choice of Him is dependent on His choice of us.

The Bible also teaches unconditional election when it sets forth the truth that our good works, faith, and repentance are not the cause or reason why God has chosen us but are the fruit, result, and evidence of our election. In very many passages of Scripture this relationship between God's election and our works is set forth. In John 15:16 Jesus says that He has chosen us, not because of, but that we should go and bring forth fruit. Paul writes in Ephesians 1:4 that God has chosen us, not because, but "... that we should be holy and without blame." In Ephesians 2:10 the same apostle writes, "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto (not 'because of') good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." Not only is it taught here that we are chosen unto good works, but there is added the statement that these works themselves have been ordained for us by God.

g. In Jesus Christ.

Although there is no basis for God's election in those who are elected, there is a basis for their election. That basis is to be found alone in Jesus Christ and in His suffering and death as the Son of God. Nor our worth is the basis for God's election of us, but the worth of Christ. Not our works are the ground for God's election of us, but the work of Christ. There must be a basis for God's election of those who are in themselves totally depraved, guilty sinners. That basis for their election, as for all of their salvation, is in Jesus Christ. In Ephesians 1:4 we read, "According as he (God) hath chosen us in him (Jesus Christ)...." And in verse 5 of the same chapter he writes, "Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ...."


3. Reprobation.

The Reformed faith maintains "double predestination," that is, not only election, but also reprobation. God's election of men in Jesus Christ is selective and discriminating. Not all men are chosen by God and appointed to salvation. In reality, many are excluded and rejected. In the words of the Canons of Dordt, I, 15: "What peculiarly tends to illustrate and recommend the unmerited grace of election is that not all, but some only are elected, while others are passed by in the eternal decree of God." This is the teaching of reprobation.

Like election, reprobation is an eternal decree of God. According to this decree God appoints certain definite persons to the everlasting destiny of rejection and damnation. Those reprobated deserve this punishment to which they are appointed because of their unbelief and other sins. God does not owe salvation to them nor to anyone.

Reprobation demonstrates the sovereignty of God in salvation, that God does what He wills with the creatures He has made. The reprobate are no worse than the elect. All men appear in the mind of God as involved in a common ruin. The ultimate explanation of God's electing some and reprobating others is His own sovereign good pleasure: "... for so it seemed good in his sight" (Matt. 11:26). Beyond that we cannot go, and before that we humans must bow. Theoretically, God could have chosen to save all men (for He has power to do so), or He could have chosen to save none (for He was under no obligation to save any). But He did neither. Instead He has chosen to save some and exclude others.


B. Scripture Passages

There are many references both in the Old and New Testaments to the truth of election.

1. The Old Testament.

The outstanding example of election in the Old Testament is God's election of the nation of Israel. In distinction from all other nations, God chose Israel to be His people.

a. Deuteronomy 7:6. For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God: the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all the people that are upon the face of the earth.
b. I Kings 3:8. And thy servant (Solomon) is in the midst of thy people which thou hast chosen, a great people, that cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude.
c. Psalm 105:6. O ye seed of Abraham his servant, ye children of Jacob his chosen.
d. Psalm 132:13. For the Lord hath chosen Zion, he hath desired it for his habitation.
e. Isaiah 41:8. But thou, Israel, art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend.
f. Isaiah 45:4. For Jacob my servant's sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called thee (King Cyrus) by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me.

2. The New Testament

a. Matthew 22:14. For many are called but few are chosen.
b. Matthew 24:31. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
c. Mark 13:20. And except that the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh should be saved: but for the elect's sake, whom He hath chosen, he hath shortened the days.
d. Luke 18:7. And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?
e. John 13:18. I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen: but that the Scripture might be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me.
f. John 15:16. Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.
g. John 17:9. I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.
h. Romans 8:28-30. And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.
i. Acts 13:7. The God of this people of Israel chose our fathers, and exalted the people when they dwelt as strangers in the land of Egypt, and with an high arm brought he them out of it.
j. Romans 8:33. Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect?
k. Romans 9:11-13. For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth; it was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.
l. Romans 9:23. And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory.
m. Romans 11:5. Even so at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.
n. Romans 11:7. What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for, but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded.
o. Ephesians 1:3-5. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: according as he hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love, having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.
p. Ephesians 1:11. In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.
q. Colossians 3:12. Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering.
r. I Thessalonians 1:4. Knowing brethren beloved, your election of God.
s. I Thessalonians 5:19. For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ.
t. II Thessalonians 2:13. But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.
u. II Timothy 2:10. Therefore I endure all things for the elect's sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.
v. Titus 1:1. Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God's elect.
w. I Peter 1:2. Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.
x. I Peter 2:9. But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.
y. I Peter 5:13. The church that is at Babylon, elected together with you, saluteth you; and so doth Marcus my son.
z. II Peter 1:10. Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall.
aa. Revelation 17:14. These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful.

3. Election is definite and particular.

These and all the other a. Deuteronomy 7:6; I Kings 3:8; Psalm 105:6; 132:13; Isaiah 41:8; 45:6; Acts 13:17. (Quoted above in B.1. and 2.)

passages of Scripture which speak of God's election of Israel indicate that election is definite. God chose Israel in distinction from all other nations to be His people.

b. John 15:16. Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit....
c. Romans 9:28-30. And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called; and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.
d. Romans 9:11-13. For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth; it was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.

In this passage the apostle Paul teaches that God has elected the specific, definite person Jacob.

e. Ephesians 1:4, 5. According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.
f. Revelation 13:8. And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him (the antichristian beast), whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.

We are taught here that there are names of definite people which are written down in the Book of Life, specific persons, therefore, who are elected by God. The next passage teaches the same truth.

g. Revelation 17:8. The beast that thou sawest was, and is not: and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition: and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they shall behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.

4. Election is an eternal decree.

a. Ephesians 1:4. According as he hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love.
b. II Thessalonians 2:13. But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.
c. II Timothy 1:9. Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.
d. Revelation 17:8. The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition: and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they shall behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.

5. Election is unto salvation.

a. Acts 13:48. And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.
b. Romans 8:28-30. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.

The "Golden Chain of Salvation" described here in Romans 8:29, 30 begins with foreknowledge and predestination and ends with justification and glorification.

c. Ephesians 1:5. Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.
d. II Thessalonians 2:13. But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.
e. II Timothy 2:10. Therefore I endure all things for the elect's sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.

6. Election is gracious and unconditional.

a. Deuteronomy 7:7. The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people.
b. John 1:13. Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
c. John 15:16. Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.
d. Romans 9:11. For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth.
e. Romans 9:16. So then it (salvation) is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.
f. Romans 11:5. Even so at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.
g. I Corinthians 1:27-29. But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: that no flesh should glory in his presence.
h. Ephesians 2:8. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.
i. II Timothy 1:9. Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.

7. Election is gracious and unconditional (continued).

That our election is gracious and unconditional is also indicated by those Scripture passages which teach that repentance, faith, and good works are the fruit, not the cause, of our election.

a. John 15:16. Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.

Here Jesus teaches very clearly that He has chosen and ordained us, not because of the good works ("fruit") that we have produced, but in order that we should produce good works ("fruit"). Our good works are not the cause of our election but the purpose and result of our election.

b. Acts 5:31. Him (Christ) hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and Savior, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.

Repentance is not some work that originates in us, a condition that we fulfill, thus making ourselves worthy of God's election of us. On the contrary, repentance is a gift of Christ to us. That a man repents is due to the grace of God that works repentance in him.

c. Acts 13:48. And when the Gentiles heard this (the preaching of the apostle Paul), they were glad, and glorified the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.

This passage teaches that only as many as were ordained to eternal life (elect) believed the preaching of God's apostle. It teaches that all in his audience who were ordained to eternal life believed. And it teaches that their faith (believing) was the fruit of their having been ordained to eternal life.

d. Ephesians 1:4. According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love.

We have been chosen so that we should be holy and without blame, not because we were holy and without blame. Our holiness (good works) is not the basis for our election but the purpose for which we have been elected.

e. Ephesians 2:10. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

First, the apostle Paul teaches here that we are created in Christ Jesus (saved) unto good works. Good works cannot be the cause or basis for our salvation but the goal or purpose for which we are saved. Second, the apostle Paul teaches that even these good works which we perform as the result of our salvation "God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." If God has eternally ordained our good work, and if God gives us the strength actually to do good works, how can we ever suppose that our good works are our contribution to salvation, much less the cause of salvation?

f. Acts 18:27. And when he (Apollos) was disposed to pass into Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him: who, when he was come, helped them much which had believed through grace.

Like the passage in Ephesians 2:8, this text teaches that faith (believing) is a gift of God. Faith does not originate in man himself, but faith is worked in us by God. To use this language of Acts 18:27, we believe "through grace." If, now, faith is itself a gift of God, it cannot be that which man produces as the cause of his election and salvation.

g. II Timothy 1:9. Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.

Here Paul expressly states that we have been saved and elected not because of any works that God saw in us but according to his will and grace.

h. Philippians 1:29. For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake.

It is "given" to us to believe. Once again, the Scriptures teach that election and salvation cannot be conditioned on our faith. Faith does not have its source in us who believe but is a gift of God worked in us.

i. Philippians 2:12, 13. Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.

Often verse 12 is quoted by those who teach that man has the ability to earn his salvation. Emphasis is placed on the exhortation, "... work out your own salvation...." But that this cannot possibly be the meaning of the words is made plain by the immediately following words, "For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure."


8. Election is in Jesus Christ.

a. Ephesians 1:4. According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love.
b. Ephesians 1:5. Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.
c. II Timothy 1:9. Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.
d. Hebrews 5:9. And being made perfect, he (Christ) became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.

9. Reprobation.

The first proof for reprobation is the Greek word, inspired by the Holy Spirit, in the New Testament and which is translated "elect" or "chosen" in our King James Version of the Bible. That Greek word means literally, not simply "to choose," but "to choose out of." That clearly implies reprobation. If God's elect are chosen out of the fallen human race, it is clearly implied that there are others out of whom the elect have been chosen. They have not so been chosen. They are the non-elect, or reprobate.

The truth of reprobation follows from election. Even the enemies of the doctrine of predestination have recognized this. Repeatedly they have charged that reprobation is only a logical deduction that is made from the truth of election, a logical deduction, according to them, that is not necessarily in harmony with reality. Now, we hope to show that reprobation is not simply a logical implication of election but the express teaching of the Scriptures, as the Reformed faith has always maintained. But it certainly is true that reprobation follows logically from the truth of election. One cannot consistently hold to election without also confessing reprobation. Neither can one deny reprobation without also, by that very fact, denying election. If election is God's choice of certain definite particular persons, then it follows that there are those who are not so chosen by God. Those who deny reprobation but make some effort to hold yet to election end up with an election according to which God chooses all men and desires the salvation of all men. There is no particular election. The reason why some men in distinction from others are in the end actually saved is due to those men themselves, to their free will and to their good works. Thus the unconditionality of election is denied. Election is no longer gracious election. History, too, has demonstrated - let men open their eyes! - that the denial of reprobation is inherently an attack upon and a rejection of unconditional election.

a. Proverbs 16:4. The Lord hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.

God has made the wicked for the day of evil. They are wicked, wilfully wicked. And they forever bear the blame for their wickedness. But their wickedness does not take away from the fact that they have been made by God for the day of evil.

b. John 10:26. But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you.

Often these words of Jesus to the unbelieving Jews are twisted. Then Jesus says that the unbelieving Jews are not of His sheep (the number of the elect) because they do not believe on Him. That is exactly what Jesus does not say here. On the contrary, they do not believe on Him because they are not of His sheep. That they do not believe on Christ is due to this, on this account, has this as its explanation, that they are not of Jesus' sheep. First they are not of Jesus' sheep, and then because they are not, neither do they believe on Him. Implied is that those who do believe on Jesus believe on Him because they are of His sheep. That they believe on Jesus is itself the evidence that they belong to the number of Jesus' sheep. Because they are of Jesus' sheep they also believe on Him.

c. Romans 9:11-13. For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth; it was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.
d. Romans 9:21-23. Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor? What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: and that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory.
e. I Thessalonians 5:9. For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain eternal salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ.

That "we" have not been appointed by God to wrath clearly implies that there are others who have been appointed by God to wrath, in other words, reprobated.

f. I Peter 2:8. And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the Word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.
g. Jude 4. For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.
h. Revelation 13:8. And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him (the antichristian beast), whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.
i. Matthew 11:25, 26. At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things (of the kingdom) from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight.

Here the Lord Jesus thanks - think about that, thanks! - His heavenly Father because He has hid, actively hid, the things of the kingdom of heaven from certain men. Jesus indicates that in harmony with the Father's eternal reprobation of some men in time and in history He hides, hardens, withholds, and blinds certain men, thus preventing their salvation.


C. Difficult Passages

1. Romans 8:29; I Peter 1:2; and other passages which speak of God's foreknowledge.

The Scripture passages most often used against the doctrine of sovereign unconditional election are those passages which speak of God's foreknowledge and indicate that foreknowledge is before election. The argument, then, is that election is not unconditional, that is, without any regard for what we are or would be but is conditioned on God's prior knowledge of what we would be or do. In other words, God chose certain people because He had already foreseen that they would repent and believe, and their foreseen faith was the condition on which God chose them.

Now apart from the fact that this is a denial of God's sovereignty, inasmuch as it makes God's choice dependent on man's (even though only foreseen), it does not at all reflect the biblical idea of foreknowledge. For one thing, foreknowledge in the Scriptures is not just a kind of predicting of the future but is causative, that is, foreknowledge as much as election does not just foretell our believing but actually brings it about (cf. Acts 2:23). For another thing, foreknowledge in the Scriptures is also much more than mere foresight in that it is actually God's love before time. This becomes very clear when one studies the way in which the Scriptures use the word knowledge in such passages as Genesis 4:1; Amos 3:2; and Galatians 4:9. That means that insofar as foreknowledge does indeed precede election (this we cannot deny) it is the deepest reason for election, but then the deepest reason for election is not our foreseen faith but God's eternal love.


2. Deuteronomy 7:6, 7; 14:2 and other similar Old Testament passages.

Such passages as these which speak of Israel's election are sometimes used to deny that election (and reprobation) are personal and therefore also sovereign and unconditional. Some teach by these verses that God chose only a nation in the Old Testament and that He chose them only to receive certain privileges. Similarly it is taught that as far as New Testament people are concerned, God did not choose persons either but only an indefinite number. Understand, if God has chosen certain persons and chosen them to salvation as the Scriptures so clearly teach, then election is effective and unconditional. But if He has chosen only an indefinite number of persons or a nation, then election is neither effective nor unconditional, for then those who are saved are not saved because of election but because of their own works or faith.

Especially valuable in this connection is Romans 9:10-13 which speaks so clearly of a personal election and reprobation way back in the Old Testament. This passage along with those that speak of "names" being written in the Book of Life (Luke 10:20; Phil. 4:3; Rev. 13:8; 17:8) conclusively shows that election is indeed personal and therefore also effective, sovereign, and unconditional.


D. Objections

1. Predestination a denial of God's love.

Often it is objected against the teaching of predestination that it denies a loving God. Now, certainly, God is a God of love. In I John 4:8 we read, "He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love."

What is forgotten, however, is that God loves Himself first of all. He is a jealous God, jealous of His own Name, His own righteousness, and His own holiness. Exactly in the love that He has for Himself, God judges, punishes, and damns all who are not in harmony with His own holiness.

Reprobation displays God's justice, as election does His mercy. In fact, the mercy of God in election is magnified against the dark background of His righteousness in reprobation. This is exactly what Paul teaches in Romans 9:22, 23, "What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: and that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory."


2. Predestination a denial of God's justice.

Another familiar objection against the doctrine of predestination is that this is not fair. It is not righteous of God to discriminate between men, electing and saving some while rejecting and condemning others.

The apostle Paul faces this objection against predestination in Romans 9:14, "What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God?" The very fact that men raise this objection against us indicates that we are maintaining the same doctrine defended by Paul.

What is our answer to this objection? The same as Paul's: "God forbid!" This objection might have validity if all men alike deserved salvation, but notwithstanding God chose and saved only some men. Then there might be room for the accusation that there is unrighteousness in God - God is not fair! But the case is quite different. The reality is that all men are unworthy of God's salvation. All men alike are fallen in Adam, and all men are conceived and born dead in sin. There is no injustice on God's part that out of the entire mass of fallen humanity, He should see fit to choose and save some. He is under no obligation to save any. That He should determine to save some is merely a matter of His sovereign mercy: "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion" (Rom. 9:15).


3. Predestination a denial of man's responsibility.

Yet another often heard objection against the Reformed doctrine of predestination is that it denies man's responsibility and leads to determinism and fatalism. If God has determined whether or not a man is saved and has decided the everlasting destiny of every man, we might as well live as we please. If we have been elected to salvation, we will be saved anyway. If we have been reprobated, there is nothing that we can do to change the will of God, neither can we really be held responsible for our sins.

This objection, too, is faced by Paul in Romans 9:19, "Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he (God) yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?" Once again, the very fact that people raise this same objection against us puts us in good company. It should be no surprise to us that since the apostle faced this objection regarding his teaching of predestination, we must also be faced with it.

What answer must we give to this objection? The same basic answer as Paul gave: "Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God?" Paul denies the right of puny man to make this objection. He goes on: "Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor?" (Rom. 9:20, 21). Two things remain true: God's sovereign predestination and man's full responsibility. Paul does not relinquish the doctrine of predestination, neither does he concede the objection that this teaching denies man's responsibility before God. Both are true. In a way that transcends our ability fully to explain or comprehend, God is sovereign, sovereign in determining the everlasting destiny of every man, and man remains a responsible, moral, rational creature.

Although the Scriptures are clear about it that God has eternally predestinated all things, they are equally clear in maintaining the full responsibility of the sinner. There are a couple of examples that bring this out. According to Isaiah 37:21-38, Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, invaded and destroyed Judah. This event had been ordained by God long before: "Hast thou not heard long ago, how I have done it; and of ancient times, that I have formed it? Now have I brought it to pass, that thou (Sennacherib) shouldest be to lay waste defenced cities into ruinous heaps" (Is. 37:26). But does the fact of God's predestination excuse Sennacherib's behavior? Not at all! God was angry with Sennacherib for his wickedness and punished him for it, even though He had pre-ordained it: "But I know thy abode, and thy going out, and thy coming in, and thy rage against me. Because thy rage against me, and thy tumult, is come up into mine ears, therefore will I put my hook in thy nose, and my bridle in thy lips, and I will turn thee back by the way which thou camest" (Is. 37:28, 29).

The outstanding example of God's sovereign predestination and man's responsibility is the crucifixion of Christ. In his sermon on Pentecost, Peter declared, "Him (Christ), being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain" (Acts 2:23). Christ's crucifixion took place according to the "determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God." But that did not in the least excuse or minimize the guilt of the "wicked hands" that took Christ and nailed Him to the cross.


E. Denials

Reformed Christians ought to be aware of and on their guard against various denials of predestination.

1. Free will.

Those who teach that natural man, man outside of and apart from the grace of God, is able to choose Jesus Christ and salvation are compelled to deny predestination. Historically this was true of the Pelagians and Arminians. According to those who hold to free will, the decisive choice for salvation is not God's choice but man's choice. All men are able so to choose, it is said. Election becomes conditional election. God in eternity simply looks down the corridors of history, sees who will choose Him and who will not, elects those who do and rejects the rest. Predestination is reduced to mere prescience. God chooses those who choose Him.

The folly of this teaching ought to be apparent. If salvation depended on man's choice, no man would be saved: "There is none righteous, no, not one. There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one" (Rom. 3:10-12). The teaching of the free will not only denies the total depravity of fallen man, but it is also an assault on God's sovereign predestination. In the clearest possible language Jesus declares in John 15:16, "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you and ordained you...."


2. Common grace.

Another serious attack upon the truth of predestination is the teaching of common grace. In large measure, the increasing silence concerning predestination and denial of it in Reformed and Presbyterian circles today is due to the acceptance of the teaching of common grace. A consistent confession of predestination cannot be made if one also holds to common grace. It is highly necessary that common grace be repudiated if there is to be a return to the teaching of predestination in these churches.

The teaching of common grace is that God loves all men with a certain non-saving love. God demonstrates this love for all men by giving them all of the good things of this present life. The result is that although God's saving love is discriminating, for some only, there is a love of God that embraces all men without distinction.

This is clearly contradictory. In eternity God hates and reprobates some men, but in time and history He loves all men. At the very least, this is a denial of God's unchangeableness. At the worst, it leads to an obvious contradiction in the direction of a denial of predestination, particularly reprobation.

This teaching of common grace cannot stand in the light of the Scriptures. In Psalm 5:5 we read, "The foolish shall not stand in thy sight: thou hatest (in the present) all the workers of iniquity." In Psalm 11:5 David declares, "The Lord trieth the righteous: but the wicked and him that loveth violence his soul hateth (in the present)." And in Proverbs 3:33 we are told, "The curse of the Lord is in the house of the wicked."


3. The free offer of the gospel.

The teaching known as the free offer or the well-meant offer of the gospel is also an implicit denial of sovereign predestination. According to this teaching God loves and sincerely desires the salvation of all men. Christ has died to make salvation possible for all men. And in the preaching of the gospel salvation is freely offered to all who hear the gospel. In the end salvation is dependent on whether or not a man accepts the gospel offer.

Now certainly, if God has eternally chosen some men unto salvation and rejected and reprobated the rest, it cannot also be true that God sincerely desires to save all men and offers salvation freely to all. Then, at the very least, this offer is not sincere. At the worst, God and His gospel are a failure. For who can deny that many to whom the gospel comes reject the gospel, are not saved by the gospel, but perish in their sin and unbelief? Notwithstanding God's love for them and His earnest desire to save them, they go lost. It ought not surprise us that in those churches and denominations where there has been acceptance of the teaching of the free offer, there has been a resultant and increasing repudiation of sovereign predestination.

It certainly is true that all who come under the preaching of the gospel are confronted with their duty before God to repent of their sins and are called (commanded) to faith in Jesus Christ. That is true. But it is quite another thing to tell all men that God loves them, desires to save them, and freely offers salvation to them.

How does this conception of the preaching of the gospel square with God's commission to the prophet Isaiah? Does God send Isaiah out to tell all men that He loves them and wants to save them? On the contrary: "Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed" (Is. 6:9, 10). Or listen to Christ's words, really a prayer of thanksgiving to God, in Matthew 11:25, 26, "At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things (of the kingdom) from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight." Or again, Paul's words in II Corinthians 2:14-16, "Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savor of his knowledge by us in every place. For we are unto God a sweet savor of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish: to the one we are the savor of death unto death; and to the other the savor of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things?"


F. Practical Implications

The doctrine of predestination and the consistent maintaining of this doctrine are of the greatest practical importance for the church. It is not true, as the enemies allege, that this doctrine is cold, lifeless, and of no practical value. True doctrine and upright living, both for the individual Christian and for a church, go hand in hand. This is especially true of the doctrine which stands at the heart of the gospel message: predestination.

1. Predestination and the antithesis.

The faithful confession of the doctrine of predestination is vital for the life of the antithesis to which every child of God is called. Denial of predestination - as history shows - inevitably leads to a breakdown of the antithesis.

By the antithesis is meant the separation between the church and the world, and the spiritually separate life the Christian is called to live over against the world. We are to be in the world but not of the world. One forceful passage of Scripture which calls believers to the life of the antithesis is II Corinthians 6:14-17, "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come ye out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty."

The denial of predestination always results in an abandoning of the life of the antithesis. This is not difficult to understand. If God loves all men without distinction, then there is a common ground upon which believer and unbeliever can stand. There is room for making a common cause. Then, as some have put it, Jerusalem and Athens can be married. And the outcome is that the church becomes one with the world.

The practical implication of the doctrine of predestination, however, forbids the church making common cause with the world. To use the words of the prophet to king Jehoshaphat, who had sinfully made an alliance with wicked Ahab, "Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the Lord?" (II Chron. 19:2)


2. Predestination and the preaching of the gospel.

The truth of election provides the church with the motivation to preach the gospel in all the world, to every creature. The enemies of election charge that such a doctrine precludes the necessity and importance of the preaching of the gospel. If the elect have been eternally predestinated by God to salvation, it is alleged, there is no need for them to hear the gospel. They will be saved anyway. Sometimes it is even said that those who hold to the doctrine of predestination preach only to the elect.

At the worst this is a slanderous misrepresentation; at best it is a serious misunderstanding of the truth of election. Election in no way rules out the means by which God has ordained that the elect shall be brought to salvation, which means is the preaching of the gospel. The same God Who has ordained the elect unto salvation has also ordained the means by which they shall be brought to salvation and to the assurance of their election. The warning of the Canons of Dordt, III/IV, 17 is to the point:

... be it far from either instructors or instructed to presume to tempt God in the church by separating what He in His good pleasure hath most intimately joined together.

God has scattered the elect in every nation, tongue, and tribe under heaven. The means which He has ordained for their faith and salvation is the preaching of the gospel. Thus the church has the divine mandate to go into all the world and preach the gospel.

Nor must it be supposed that the preaching of the gospel serves no purpose with the reprobate who come under the preaching. On the contrary, they are confronted squarely with their duty and warned against their unbelief. Their rejection of the gospel serves to aggravate their guilt and leave them without excuse before God.

At the same time, the truth of election gives the church confidence in preaching the gospel, whether in the established congregation to the sons and daughters born in the church, or to the unsaved in missions. The elect will hear that preaching. By that preaching they will be brought to repentance and faith. The people of God will be saved. The church has that assurance as she preaches.


3. Predestination and humility.

The truth of election also gives reason for profound humility on the part of believers. Is there anything so needed in the church today as humility? The believer is humbled by the truth that his salvation is not due to anything he is or anything he has done but is due alone to the predestinating grace of God. The believer is humbled by the realization that he was not better than those whom God did not choose, indeed was involved in a common ruin. Salvation does not have its cause in us but alone in the will and good-pleasure of God. "Where is boasting then? It is excluded" (Rom. 3:27). If God's choice of us depended on our choice of Him, if our free will rather than the will of God was decisive for salvation, then we would have reason to boast in ourselves. The truth of sovereign, gracious election takes this possibility away. It is a truth that can but lead to humility in the life of one who sincerely confesses it.


4. Predestination and God's glory.

Not only does the truth of predestination remove every cause for glorying in self, it ascribes the glory for salvation to God. God has chosen us to salvation. God has delivered us from the common misery in which we had involved ourselves. God has determined everything needful for our salvation: the sending of His own Son, the preaching of the gospel, the work in us of the Holy Spirit. It is all of Him and nothing of us. To Him and to Him alone must be the glory: "For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever" (Rom. 11:36).


G. Relation to the Other Four Points

The truth of total depravity necessitates unconditional election. By nature man is dead in sin, capable neither of saving himself nor desiring to be saved. He is in no position to accomplish or to cooperate in his salvation. If man is really totally depraved - we must do justice to this truth - the cause of salvation must be in God, as the truth of election teaches that it is.

The truth of election also limits the scope of the death of Christ. Here there is perfect agreement between the will of the Father and the work of the Son. If some only are chosen to salvation, and Christ has died only for those whom God has chosen, Christ's death must be limited to some men only. His redemption is a particular redemption. He has not died, neither did He intend to die, for all men but for some only, for the elect.

If God has chosen us to salvation, so that the almighty will of God Himself rather than the fickle will of man stands behind our election, we may be certain that we shall be saved. No power of the devil, of the wicked world, or of ourselves is able to withstand the power of Almighty God. Hence, the truth of sovereign election implies the irresistibility of grace.

The doctrine of election also gives us confidence of our perseverance in faith and salvation. If my salvation depended on my will, my choice, my decision, then I could never have the assurance of perseverance. Always I would be in doubt whether the same will which brought me into salvation might also take me out of salvation. However, since the cause of my salvation does not rest in my own will but in the Almighty will of an unchangeable God, I can rest assured that I will persevere to the end. We may then be confident that the good work He has begun in us shall by the power of His grace be fully done (Phil. 1:6).


Questions from the Study Guide to aid in understanding and review.


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Chapter 4

Limited Atonement

The doctrine of limited atonement is the third of the Five Points of Calvinism and is represented by the letter L in the word TULIP, the word we use to help us remember the Five Points and their order.

This doctrine has been given other names. It is sometimes spoken of as the doctrine of particular atonement or of particular redemption for reasons that we will see later. For the same reasons it is sometimes called definite redemption.

It is also, so it seems, the most difficult of the Five Points to receive and believe as the teaching of the Scriptures, though they certainly do teach this doctrine. It is, for this reason, often rejected by those who are Calvinistic in their other teachings, so that there are some who claim to be four-point Calvinists, accepting the other four points and rejecting this one. This, to be sure, is really an impossibility, since all five of these doctrines "hang together" and are impossible to separate from one another. Nevertheless, the fact that some attempt to be four-point Calvinists does show the difficulty of this doctrine.

It is certainly regrettable that this is so, since this doctrine concerns the work of Christ on the cross and the benefits of that work for God's people. What ought to be a source of fellowship and of unity and of mutual faith in the death and redemptive work of Jesus Christ has become instead a matter of division and even strife among those who believe differently. Let it be clear that it is not our intent in treating this doctrine to further that strife or cause division but to show as clearly as possible the teaching of the Scriptures in the hope that this may further unity and fellowship in the truth.


A. The Doctrine

1. Atonement.

Whenever we speak of the atonement then we are using one of the words that the Bible itself uses to describe the benefits of Christ's death. The word, at least in the Old Testament, means "a covering" and reminds us that Christ's death provides a covering for our sins before God. The English word refers to the fact that through the death of Christ God's people are "reconciled," or "at one," with Him. The death of Christ, in other words, is "at-one-ment." The Bible, of course, uses many other words to describe the death of Christ and its benefits, words such as "ransom," "reconciliation," "propitiation," "satisfaction," and "redemption." All of these words differ somewhat in meaning, but all have this in common, that they indicate that Christ's death is our salvation.

Now it really does not matter whether we use the word atonement here or one of these other words. The disagreement does not revolve around any of these words and their meanings, but around the word limited when it is added to the word atonement or to any other of these words. No one, as such, would dispute that Christ's death is atonement, ransom, reconciliation, propitiation, or redemption, and those who believe in limited atonement believe also in limited redemption, limited satisfaction, limited propitiation, and all the rest, while the opponents of this doctrine would reject the word limited when used in connection with any of the words that describe the saving power of the death of Christ and would teach a universal atonement or redemption or satisfaction. It is nevertheless very important to see that all of these words that are used to describe the death of Christ also have this in common, that they all emphasize the fact that Christ's death actually saves. This is at the heart of the continuing dispute over this doctrine.


2. Limited.

When we add the word limited, then we are answering the question, "For whom did Christ die?" Did He die for every single person who ever has lived and ever will live, or did He die only for some people?

The doctrine of limited atonement teaches that Christ died only for some persons, a "limited" number of persons. Those who teach this doctrine would agree that the "limitation" on the atonement is election, in other words, that Christ died only for the elect and that it is only the elect who benefit from Christ's death.

Some clarification is needed here, for most of those who believe in a universal atonement do not believe that everyone benefits from the death of Christ in the sense that everyone is finally saved. They believe that Christ died for every person and that salvation is made available to everyone through the death of Christ, but that some only, and they are those who believe, benefit fully from Christ's death.

On the other hand, those who believe in limited atonement do not teach that the power and value of Christ's death is in any way limited. The only thing limited is the number of those for whom Christ died, and the limitation is not due to any defect in the work or death of Christ but to God's sovereign decree to save some and not others. For this reason, many who teach and believe in limited atonement prefer to speak of "particular atonement" rather than "limited atonement," since the word particular much more accurately describes what they believe, i.e., that Christ died only for particular persons and not for all people. The word particular also leaves no doubt about what exactly is limited here.


3. Possibility or guarantee.

There is another aspect of this doctrine, however, which is not immediately apparent and which is sometimes missed in the discussion of it. That is the question as to what Christ actually did by His death on the cross. The doctrine of limited atonement teaches that Christ by His death on the cross actually saves those for whom He died and does not just make salvation a possibility. In other words, His death is reconciliation with God, satisfaction for sin, redemption, atonement, and all the rest, and guarantees eternal life to all those for whom He died. This would seem self-evident, but it is exactly this point that must be compromised in order to teach that Christ died for all men without actually and completely saving all of them. Then, somehow, Christ's death does not itself bring salvation but only allows for the possibility of salvation. Something else beside the death of Christ is needed for salvation, perhaps man's choice, decision, or believing.


In summary, therefore, the doctrine of limited atonement really teaches four things:

a. That Christ's death is atonement for sin;

b. That because it is atonement, all those for whom He died are really and completely saved and go to heaven;

c. That He died only for particular persons and not for every single person who has lived or will live;

d. That those particular persons for whom He died are the elect, i.e., those whom God chose in eternity to be His people.


B. Scripture Passages

1. Primary references.

a. Matthew 1:21. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.

Notice here the emphasis on "his people." They are the ones Jesus saves and no others. Whoever they may be (and the Scriptures teach us in other places that they are the elect), they are a limited and particular number of persons. But notice also the emphasis on the fact that He does save them. He does not merely make salvation available but saves them from their sins entirely. Most important of all is the fact that these are the reasons why He is called JESUS. To deny either of these things is to deny His very name and the meaning of His name.

b. Isaiah 53:11. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.
c. Matthew 20:28. Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.
d. Matthew 26:28. For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sin.
e. Hebrews 9:28. So Christ was once offered to bear the sin of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.

All four of these texts show that Christ gave His life for a select and limited number of persons and not for every single person. This is not to deny that there are also passages which speak of "all" or of the "world"; but if the Bible is indeed the infallible Word of God, then the two types of passages cannot contradict each other, and either it must be shown that "many" somehow does mean "every single person," or it must be shown that "all" and "world" do not necessarily refer to every single person living or who has lived. Isaiah 53:11 and Matthew 26:28 also use this language.

It might be noted here, too, that the Scriptures speak of this "many" for whom Christ gave His life in connection with the fact that that gift of His life was a satisfaction and justification for those for whom He died, a ransom that actually purchases them out of the slavery of sin and death, and that it actually remits sin, i.e., sends it away.

f. John 6:37-39. All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.

This passage also says that Christ actually loses none of those for whom He does His work. It is not as though Christ comes for all and yet loses many who slip away or do not believe. If He had lost even one of those for whom He came, He would not have done the Father's will, and His work would not even have been approved of God. This, by the way, also shows that it was not even God's will that Christ should die for or make salvation possible for all men.

Here again the ones for whom He comes and does His work are those given Him by the Father, that is, the elect, those chosen by God before the foundations of the world.

This passage is also valuable because it gives clear guidance as to how the word "all" is used in the Scriptures. We must not forget that it is not only used here but further defined as "all whom the Father giveth me." The "all" for whom Christ died, as this passage shows so clearly, never includes anyone but "all" the elect.

g. John 10:14, 15. I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.

This passage not only teaches limited atonement by its emphasis on the sheep as the ones for whom Christ died, but it teaches very plainly what we have previously called "particular" atonement in that it tells us that Christ knows His sheep in the same way that the Father knows Him and He knows the Father, i.e., personally and by name. If this is true and if He laid down His life for those whom He knows personally, then He cannot have died merely so that anyone and everyone might have a chance at salvation.

h. John 10:26-28. But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.

That He actually saves His sheep by His death, saves them all the way to heavenly glory, infallibly and completely, is taught in the verses quoted. These verses show that it is not our faith that determines whether we will profit from Christ's death, but the will of God. In other words, as Jesus tells the unbelieving Jews, it is not that they are not part of the sheep who profit from His death because they do not believe; but because they are not of His sheep, they do not believe, i.e., because He did not die for them, they do not receive the gift of faith which He purchases for us with His own blood nor any of the other blessings of salvation.

i. Acts 20:28. Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.

This passage identifies once again those for whom the blood of Christ was shed as a limited and particular number of persons, in this case, the church. And when we remember that very often in the Scriptures the church is contrasted with the world as a group drawn and called out of it, this makes the text even more emphatic.

j. Isaiah 53:8. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.
k. Luke 1:68. Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people.

Here are two more passages that define those for whom Christ gave His life as "His people" or even "My people" (God Himself speaking). Surely the wicked and unbelieving cannot be called that!

l. Titus 2:13, 14. Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of all good works.
m. Galatians 3:13. Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is everyone that hangeth on a tree.

These last passages define those who benefit from Christ's redemptive work as "us," and the word used is by its very nature exclusive rather than inclusive.

Titus 2:13, 14 is especially significant because it not only speaks of Christ giving Himself for us but shows that those for whom He gave Himself are surely and completely saved - redeemed, purified, and zealous of good works.


2. Passages which show that Christ's death actually and fully saves those for whom He died.

Many of the passages quoted above demonstrate clearly that Christ's death does not make salvation just a possibility, so that it depends on our accepting it to become efficacious but that it is salvation and the guarantee of eternal life for all those for whom He died. Since this is the real issue, however, in the debate over limited atonement, we add these passages to those previously quoted.

a. Luke 19:10. For the Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.

Notice here that Christ comes to save the lost, not just to make it possible for them to be saved, the lost being those who know themselves lost like Zacchaeus. What is especially important about this verse, though, is that it is an explanation ("For ...") of the previous verse. There Jesus says, "This day is salvation come to this house." Salvation came, therefore, to the house of Zacchaeus not because he believed but because the Son of Man comes to save.

b. Romans 5:8-10. But God commended therewith his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.

The point cannot be made anymore clearly than this verse makes it. We are reconciled to God by the death of Christ. That means that there is nothing anymore that is between God and us, nor can anything come between us, for having been reconciled, we shall be saved. This reference to salvation is more a reference to the final glory of God's people than to their first partaking of it, but that in no wise lessens the emphasis of the text. If anything, it makes the text even stronger, for then we have here a guarantee not only of the beginning of salvation but of eternal life itself and of heavenly glory. What is more, the passage is repeating and re-emphasizing that point, for it has already stated that we are justified by His blood (and therefore have peace with God (v. 1), and being justified shall surely be saved from wrath. The line of thought therefore is this: (1) Christ's death justifies; (2) because it justifies, it surely saves us from God's wrath; (3) therefore, there is no possibility of condemnation for anyone for whom Christ died but rather the assurance of life everlasting.

c I Peter 2:24. Who his ownself bore our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.

This passage also teaches that not only Christ's death, but also all His suffering (his stripes) have actual saving power. It is to us the death of sin and the beginning of a new life of righteousness as well as our healing. And not only is it not merely the possibility of healing, but by it we were (literally, "have been") healed.


C. Difficult Passages

Here again there are many passages which are used to teach that Christ died for all men without exception simply because they have in them the words all or world. Rather than deal with each passage separately we shall group them as to the word they use and deal with them by choosing a few representative examples to show how they must all be interpreted in the light of the rest of the Scriptures. Generally speaking, however, it may be said that these passages do not intend to show that Christ died for all men without exception but that He died for all men without distinction, that is, making no difference between Jew or Gentile, great or small, rich or poor, slave or master.


1. All passages.

There are, therefore, first of all those passages which use the word all in connection with Christ's death. The best known passages are Romans 5:18; II Corinthians 5:14, 15; I Timothy 2:4-6; Titus 2:11; Hebrews 2:9; and II Peter 3:9.

In almost all of these passages the word all must be qualified in light of the context and very often simply means "all the elect" or "all God's people." But in every case the Scriptures themselves will provide the qualifier. Nor is this unusual. We speak that way so often in our everyday talk that we hardly realize it, simply using the word all when we are actually referring to a rather limited number of people; but we do not add the qualifier, because in the context of what we have been saying it is so obvious it does not need to be said.

Thus I Corinthians 15:22. All here very plainly means "all who are in Christ." This is the parallel to all who are in Adam, who die in Adam. In fact, the text cannot mean anything else, or it teaches that every single person will ultimately be saved, something plainly contradictory to the rest of the Scriptures.

Thus also I Timothy 2:4-6. Here all plainly means "all kinds of men," not just ordinary people, but also rulers and governors and those who are in authority. That is the whole context of the statement that Christ is the Mediator of "all" and that God wills "all" to be saved. Paul begins with that idea in the very first verse where he admonishes the church to pray for all kinds of persons, especially for rulers, something they had apparently been neglecting. He is not telling them to pray for every single person in the world, a manifest impossibility. And so in the following verses he does not introduce a new thought but simply follows up that admonition with various reasons, i.e., that God has willed the salvation of all kinds of persons and that Christ is also the Mediator of all kinds of persons. Other passages which use the word all in this same way, to mean "all kinds" or "all manner" are Matthew 4:23; 5:11; 10:1; Luke 11:42; Acts 10:12; Romans 7:8; I Peter 1:15; and Revelation 21:19. In many of these passages, in fact, that is the only thing the word all can mean. Thus even though these particular passages do not refer directly or at all to the death of Christ, they nevertheless do establish the way the word all can be and is used in the Scriptures.

Similar is Titus 2:11. If this passage teaches that the grace of God in the cross is for all men without exception, then it not only contradicts some of the passages we have already cited but contradicts the rest of Titus 2, particularly verses 13 and 14 which say that that grace and salvation were revealed for us, by which Paul refers to the church. What this means, of course, is that the word all must be and is qualified as a reference to a limited number of persons.

Likewise II Peter 3:9. Obviously this passage cannot mean that God is waiting for "all" to come to repentance in the sense that He is waiting for every single person to come to Christ and to repentance. If that were true, then Christ would never come, for that is what is being "delayed" here in the passage. Rather, as the passage itself indicates, the "all" here refers to "all of us." In fact, Peter says in the passage that it is to "us," i.e., to "all of us" that God is longsuffering and for whom He is waiting, that is for all the elect, or for all of the church.

So also with all the passages that use this language.


2. World passages.

There are also those passages that use the word world in identifying those for whom Christ died. The most often quoted passages which use this language are John 1:29; 3:16; 4:42; and I John 2:2. Those less often quoted are II Corinthians 5:19 and I John 4:14. These passages, too, must be understood in light of the rest of the Word of God. The key to these passages is John 17:9 which shows that there are two worlds, one for which Christ does not even pray, much less die (for if He could die for it, surely He could and would pray for it), and another world for which He both prays and dies: "I pray for them; I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine." Most of the passages must be interpreted with this in mind.

In a few of these passages, the reference of the word world is not so much to the world of the elect in distinction from the world of the wicked reprobate but to the world of the Gentiles in distinction from the world of Jews. But even in this case there are two worlds, though in this case both are redeemed by the blood of Christ. The most notable of these passages is I John 2:2.

There is a reason, however, why the Bible uses these words when speaking of the death of Christ. It does not, in other words, use them merely to make things difficult or to cause confusion but to teach a very important truth. That truth is this: that God, in saving His people does save the world. His work of salvation is not some kind of salvage work by which He manages to rescue a few here and there, but it is the salvation of the world which He originally created, though because of sin, it involves the cutting off and destruction of many persons. In other words, in the same way, that God saves His "vine" in Isaiah 5 and even saves it by cutting off many of the branches, so God saves His world. It is important that we see salvation from this perspective also, since it shows us that God is not frustrated by the coming of sin so that the best He can do is to salvage something of the wreckage of His plans, but that He in perfect wisdom accomplishes His original purpose and saves His world.

3. There are a few other passages that need to be dealt with here, notably I Timothy 4:10 and II Peter 2:1. The first passage would seem to teach that God in addition to being the Savior of His people is also in some sense the Savior of all men. II Peter 2:1 would seem to teach that the Lord in some sense of the word also "purchased" those who deny Him and are finally destroyed.

As far as I Timothy 4:10 is concerned, it must be clear that this passage cannot mean that God is the Savior of all men in the usual sense of the word, because otherwise the passage would contradict the rest of the Scriptures and teach universalism, i.e., that no one will be damned, since it does not say just that God sent His Son for all but is the Savior of all. The simplest explanation is this, and it was the explanation that John Calvin himself gave: that God is the Savior of all men in the sense that He provides life and breath, food and health and the other necessities of life for all without exception, while He gives life and health and all the other things to His people not only physically but also spiritually. This passage would simply confirm, therefore, the teaching of such passages as Psalm 145:9; Acts 17:25; and Hebrews 6:7. Savior has, then, the sense only of "provider" as far as the wicked are concerned.

With respect to the second passage, II Peter 2:1, it must be remembered first of all that the passage cannot mean that these people were actually purchased by Christ with His own blood. If that is the case, then they belong to Christ and belong to Him forever, for as He says in John 10:27, 28: "I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand."

Remembering that, there are several possible ways to interpret the passage. The first would simply make the words the Lord that bought them a reference to the truth of blood atonement as taught by and believed in the church leaving the reference of the pronoun them general and not a reference to these false prophets. In other words, these false prophets deny this confession of the church, "The Lord bought us." The other interpretation is very similar and would make the word them refer to the people instead of making it refer to the false teachers. Those who are bought by the blood of Christ, then, are the people of God in the past and also in the present (those to whom Peter is writing).

In conclusion, let the point made briefly above be stressed again, i.e., that if the passages that seem to teach that Christ died for all men without exception are carefully examined and then interpreted as a reference to every person one will find that they teach far more than those who believe in universal atonement want them to teach, that is, they would then teach not just that Christ died for all men without exception but that all are actually saved and go to heaven.


D. Objection

An objection often heard against the doctrine of limited or particular atonement is that it denies the full value of Christ's sacrifice in that it teaches that Christ died only for some and not for all. Actually, this is the very opposite of the truth. It is not limited atonement that denies the value of Christ's death but the teaching that Christ died in some sense for all.

The point, once again, is that if Christ died for all and all are not in fact really and completely saved by His death, then the only possible conclusion is that Christ's death really did not do very much for them. It did not even determine finally whether or not they would perish or be saved. Christ's sacrifice, in that case, is neither very powerful or very valuable. At best it only made salvation possible.

But if all those for whom Christ died, even if they are not all men, are truly and fully saved by His sacrifice, then His blood is indeed beyond price because of its saving power. And the doctrine of limited atonement teaches that Christ's death is the full salvation of all those for whom He died.


E. Denials of Limited Atonement

As with the other four points, this doctrine of limited atonement has also been denied in various ways throughout the history of the church.

1. Universalism.

This teaching says that all men actually are saved by the blood of Christ and makes its appeal to those passages which speak of "all men" or of "the world." The difference between this teaching and that of Arminianism is that rather than teaching that Christ died for all but that all do not actually benefit from Christ's death so that they go to heaven, this teaching says that no one goes to hell and that the blood of Christ avails for all without exception.

Any cursory study of the Scriptures' teaching on judgment and hell will show that this teaching is false. Nevertheless, as obviously contrary as it is to the Scriptures, it is in some ways more consistent and more correct than the idea that Christ really died only to make salvation possible, since it does not deny the power of the blood of Christ to save. In fact, if we are to maintain that Christ's death has saving power, this is the only possible alternative to Calvinism.


2. Roman Catholicism.

The Roman Catholic Church denies the doctrine of limited atonement not so much by denying that Christ died only for His people but by denying that His blood is the only thing that cleanses away sin and by denying that He removed the sins of His people once for all. Thus such things as good works, penance, and purgatory are needed in addition to the blood of Christ to purge away sin. Likewise, the merits of the saints are of as much value as Christ's work in forgiving sins. This is especially true of the Roman Catholic mass, which supposedly is a non-bloody re-enactment of the death of Christ and a clear denial of the once-for-all-time value of Christ's death.

However, the Roman Catholic Church also denies the limited character of the atonement by teaching that there are more for whom the blood of Christ avails than those who finally go to heaven. For example, according to Roman Catholic teaching, the blood of Christ through the sacrament of baptism actually washes away original sin and also the original sin of some who do not continue in the way of salvation. This was also very similar to the teaching of Martin Luther and to that of the Lutheran churches today. Luther did, however, though somewhat inconsistently, teach limited atonement in other connections. It was only at this point that he "fudged."


3. Arminianism.

Arminianism, named after the followers of Jacob Arminius, against whom the original Five Points of Calvinism, Canons of Dordt, were written, taught and still teach today that Christ died for all men, though all are not actually saved and go to heaven. They explain this by teaching that Christ through His death made salvation available to all and that whether or not he will actually profit from the death of Christ depends on a person's believing and accepting what Christ has done.

This, however, makes our salvation depend more on our own choice or decision than on the death of Christ and really denies the power of Christ's blood. As the Canons of Dordt point out, this really means that Christ might have died without anyone actually profiting from His death, something which does not speak well either of the wisdom of God in sending Christ or of the value of Christ's death. It constitutes a denial of the power and value of Christ's death, therefore, even though this is the charge usually leveled against the teaching of Calvinism by those who hold to this teaching.


4. The free offer of the gospel.

This pestiferous teaching has crept into Reformed theology in recent years and is an "enemy in the camp" in that it also constitutes a denial of limited atonement.

This teaching says that God in the gospel makes a sincere and well-meaning offer of salvation to every person who hears the gospel, expressing in the gospel His desire that all be saved.

If this is true, then God lies in the preaching of the gospel, for He says what simply is not true according to the doctrine of limited atonement. His will as revealed in the cross is not that He desires that salvation of all men, but of some only, that is, of His elect, nor did He send His Son for all men but for the elect. How then can He sincerely say in the gospel that He wants all men to be saved without contradicting Himself and making Himself a liar? Nor is this taught anywhere in the Scriptures.

What is more, it is self-evident that if God really does express in the gospel a desire that all men be saved then the only possible basis for that can be that in some sense of the word He also sent Christ to die for all men. But that is not limited atonement. The problem here is that many who claim to believe in limited atonement actually do not teach it and in fact contradict it at this point. By doing so, they seriously damage the cause of Calvinism.

This teaching, by the way, is explicitly rejected in the Canons of Dordt, the original Five Points, as part of the erroneous teaching of the Arminians (cf. Canons III, IV, Rejection of Errors, 5).


5. Modernism.

This is not the name, obviously, of any particular sect or denomination but a reference to the teaching, so common today, that the death of Christ is not even atonement or redemption, but merely an example of a man who was willing to die for His principles and an example that we must follow. This teaching would make the death of Christ an example for all, at least for all who care to give heed to it, but it is clear that by denying the redemptive character of the blood of Christ, those who teach such are outside the pale of Christianity, for the death and atoning sacrifice of Christ are the very principles on which Christianity is founded.

The reason for mentioning this, however, is that in essence its teaching is not that much different from the teaching of Arminianism in that Arminianism also denies the power and efficacy of the blood of Christ. In fact, at the time of the Synod of Dordt, the Arminians were teaching various theories of the atonement which made the atonement merely an example of God's love or of His justice and which explicitly denied that the atonement was anything more than an example.


6. Sufficiency and efficiency.

There are also some who teach that while the death of Christ was actually powerful only for the salvation of the elect, that it was nevertheless sufficiently valuable to have paid for the sins of all mankind. This in itself is rather abstract and perhaps not overly objectionable, though the Scriptures certainly do not make such a distinction but insist that the atonement is both powerful and valuable only for the elect. However, this distinction is usually carried a step farther, so that it is taught not only that the death of Christ was hypothetically valuable enough to pay for the sins of all but that God actually intended it to do that, and that the only reason it does not is man's stubbornness in not believing and accepting the work of Christ.

This, obviously, is but thinly disguised Arminianism, and also adds up to a denial of the particular and limited character of the atonement.


7. God loves all men.

Obviously, the whole discussion of the extent of the atonement is inseparably connected with a discussion of God's love and God's intention. The teaching that Christ died for all without exception follows from the teaching that God loves all and wants all to be saved. There is, then, a very close connection between the doctrines of limited atonement and unconditional election. The Calvinist does not believe just that Christ died for some because that is the teaching of the Bible but also because he believes that the Bible teaches sovereign unconditional election, i.e., that God eternally loves and intends to save some only and not all. This is, however, the subject of another chapter.


F. Practical Importance

Nor is the doctrine of limited atonement a mere abstraction but part of the truth which rules our lives and makes us holy and obedient and gives us our comfort. With that in mind let us look at some of the practical implications of the doctrine.

1. Limited atonement and the preaching.

Whether or not one believes in limited atonement makes a tremendous difference in the way the gospel is preached. If the cross is indeed the power of God unto salvation as the Scriptures tell us it is, then the preaching will be the proclamation of the cross and of the death of Christ on the cross, and the power by which sinners believe will be the power of God speaking to them through that proclamation and by His Spirit in their hearts.

If, however, the power of the cross depends on man's accepting it or believing it, then the preaching will degenerate into a kind of "salespitch," as in many cases it has. One need only witness the various revival meetings that are so popular, the advent of the altar call, and the begging and pleading with sinners that is introduced into the worship of the church to see what the preaching becomes when the truth of limited, efficacious atonement is denied. It becomes, in the words of another writer, a "hawking" of Jesus Christ and of the cross on order of and very much like that which goes on at a carnival.

This is not to deny that there must also go forth as part of the preaching of the cross the call to repent and believe, but if one truly believes in limited atonement, then that will indeed be a call in the sense of a command and not a thinly disguised offer of salvation to all or a vain attempt to "sell" Christ by begging with sinners. Then too, the charisma and oratorical skill of the preacher are not the main thing in preaching, as so many think today, but the fact that He preaches nothing but Christ crucified as the power of God unto salvation. What one believes about the atonement, therefore, has a profound effect on the very nature and manner of gospel preaching.


2. Limited atonement and missions.

Closely connected with the preceding is the fact that the doctrine of limited atonement means that the calling of the church in missions is not to preach the gospel to every single soul now living but to preach it when and where God sends her. It is a misunderstanding of this point that places a heavy burden of guilt on Christians today, for it is all but impossible both in terms of cost and in terms of manpower to preach the gospel to every living human being. Yet the church ought to feel guilty if Christ has died for every person and the church has not made that known to everyone living. Then there is no Christian living who ought not sell all his possessions and dedicate every moment of his life to try to accomplish this goal. If he does not, he is guilty of failing to let men know that Christ has died for them. Then too, the church in the past has never realized her calling to preach the gospel to all the world but has fallen far short of that most important calling of all, her great commission.

If, however, one believes in limited atonement, then one can be sure that the cross is not for all and be satisfied to preach the gospel when and where God sends. This is not to say that the church must not actively and aggressively do the work of missions, only that she need not feel guilty when she is not able for legitimate reasons to bring that gospel to every single man, woman, and child. She can rest content that where God has His people He will make it possible also for the church to preach the gospel both by opening the door and by providing the necessary means.


3. Limited atonement and witnessing.

Belief in limited atonement also has an effect on the content of the believer's witness as well as the content of mission preaching. The doctrine of limited atonement means that neither the church in its mission preaching nor the believer in his witnessing may go to the lost and simply say to them, "Christ died for you!" To say that would in many cases simply be a lie and the attempt to persuade the lost by telling them this little more than seduction.

What the believer must do in his witnessing is speak of Christ and the power of His work as well as the fact that He died for the sins of His people, calling the lost to repentance and faith in Christ, and leaving the work of convincing and convicting sinners to the Holy Spirit.


4. Limited atonement and the assurance of salvation.

It should also be evident that our assurance of salvation depends on our knowing that the cross is salvation, full and free. If we should really think that the cross was only a possibility of salvation and that our benefiting from the cross was dependent on our accepting it, we would be bereft of all our comfort in Christ, for our comfort is exactly that He is all our salvation and that nothing more is needed besides Him.

If we should think that God sincerely offered salvation to all men without exception, how should we ever know that we were not among those to whom salvation was sincerely offered by God, while He had not even sent His Son to die for our sins or given us to Christ to be saved by His blood? We must know that His blood is the only thing that stands between us and hell, for if that is not sufficient to save us, then what in all the world is?


5. Limited atonement and the glory of God.

As far as glorifying and praising God in the church is concerned, this doctrine is also of the greatest possible value. Who could praise a God Who sincerely offers salvation to all without even intending their salvation? Who can praise a God Who sent His Son into the world and subjected Him to the shame and reproach of the cross on the mere chance that some might be saved?

One thing is certain. However much we may quibble about these doctrines, God will not allow one drop of His Son's blood to be wasted or allow His costly death to be a failure. Nor will He allow His own wisdom to be impugned by the notion that He would go to such effort and pay such a price merely in the hope that some might be saved nor allow His power to be blasphemed as though He were not able to save all those whom He intended to save and for whom He sent His Son.

It is the sovereignty of God which is really at stake here, and we ought to see that. God is not only sovereign in deciding from eternity who shall be saved, but He is the same Sovereign at the cross and in the preaching of the cross, for there also He decides who shall be saved and who shall profit from the blood of Jesus Christ His Son.


G. Relation to the other four points

The doctrine of limited atonement, as we have already to some extent seen, is inseparably related to the other four points. It is, therefore, really impossible to be a three- or four-point Calvinist and reject this doctrine while maintaining all or most of the others.

As far as unconditional election is concerned, that doctrine, with the emphasis on unconditional, insists that man's faith is not in any sense of the word a condition to his salvation but that salvation is all of grace. This must also be true at the cross. If salvation through the cross is conditional and depends on man's acceptance of it, then election cannot be unconditional, since election is not a mere choice of those who will be saved but the actual planning of the way of salvation as well. So also election would be in vain if salvation in the cross still depended on man's choice or decision for Christ, for whether or not God chose someone would really make no difference. All would still hinge on man's own free will and decision.

As far as total depravity is concerned, that doctrine is the reason why the atonement must be efficacious for all those whom God has given to Christ, for the doctrine of total depravity teaches us that man has of himself no power to accept Christ or believe in the cross. He can have that power only through the cross and by the cross. If the power of the cross really depended on our acceptance of Christ, the doctrine of total depravity says that no one at all could possibly be saved by the cross.

Likewise, the doctrines of irresistible grace and perseverance follow from this doctrine, for to teach limited atonement is to teach also efficacious atonement, as we have seen, and that simply means that by His cross Christ purchased all that was necessary for our salvation and purchased it for us with the price of His own blood so that it belongs to us and so that we belong to Him and cannot be let go or lost. Thus the power of the cross is the guarantee of our salvation by the power of efficacious grace and our perseverance until the end.


Questions from the Study Guide to aid in understanding and review.


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Chapter 5

Irresistible Grace

Does salvation depend on God's grace or on the sinner's free will? Can God's will to save man be frustrated? Can it happen that although God's grace has begun to work in a man, that grace is able to be resisted and lost? Does God merely try to save men or does He actually save them?

These are vital questions!

The significance of these questions comes into no clearer focus than in a discussion of the truth of irresistible grace.

The doctrine of irresistible grace, or as it is sometimes referred to, efficacious grace, is the fourth of the Five Points of Calvinism. It is represented by the I in the acronym TULIP.

By irresistible grace we mean that God's grace and salvation cannot be effectively resisted. When God determines to save a man, that man is saved. Neither he himself, nor the devil, nor the wicked world are able to prevent his salvation. Nothing can stand in the way of God's purpose. Not only does God will to save him and work to save him, but He actually does save him, "For who hath resisted his will?" (Rom. 9:19).

Irresistible grace is an important issue. Let no church or individual Christian suppose otherwise.

The importance of this issue is not merely that it concerns the question "Can grace be resisted?" but ultimately the question "Can God be resisted?" The grace of salvation is God's grace. Can God, the sovereign God, the God about Whom the Scriptures declare that "He does according to His will in the army of heaven, and none can stay his hand" (Dan. 4:35) be frustrated in His will to save even one sinner? The issue concerns the very Being of God. As concerns the doctrine of irresistible grace, we are faced with the most fundamental question with which a man can be faced: what do you believe about God?

Because the Reformed faith confesses the truth that God is a sovereign God, the Reformed faith also teaches irresistible grace. This, surely, is rigorous logic, as any clear thinking person can see. More importantly, this is the teaching of the Holy Scriptures. The purpose of this chapter will be to demonstrate the validity of this assertion.


A. The Doctrine

1. The saving of the sinner is due to the power of God's grace alone. That sinner has been unconditionally elected to salvation in eternity by God the Father. In time he has been redeemed by the death of Jesus Christ. But this sinner must also be saved, that is, the benefits of Christ's death must be applied to him and he must be made to possess the salvation that God has willed for him. He must be converted in heart and life from a dead, unbelieving, and disobedient sinner to a living, believing, and obedient child of God. The power of God that works this radical change in the sinner is grace.

Salvation is by grace and by grace alone. That in the history of the church has proved to be the pivotal issue: grace alone! Always there have been those who, although they spoke of salvation by grace also attributed salvation, at least to some extent, to the work and ability of man. Yes, salvation is due to the grace of God, they said. But that grace of God cooperates with the work and will of the sinner. Yes, the power of God accomplishes salvation. But the power of God depends on the willingness of the sinner. What this means is that salvation is due to the grace of God and something else rather than to the grace of God alone.

The Scriptures teach clearly that salvation is by grace. In Ephesians 2:8 the apostle Paul teaches, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God." In Acts 20:24 the same apostle speaks of the gospel as "the gospel of the grace of God." Concerning himself he says in I Corinthians 15:10, "By the grace of God I am what I am."

That we are saved by grace means that we are not saved by works. Salvation by grace alone means that our works do not at all contribute to our salvation. That grace rules out works as the cause of salvation is plain from the Scriptures. We read in Romans 11:5, 6: "Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. And if by grace, then it is no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace." Galatians 2:16 teaches the same truth: "Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified." In Titus 3:5 Paul declares, "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost."


2. This grace of salvation is an irresistible grace. On the surface of it, it is plain that the power of grace must be a great power. Man is the sinner; God must be the Savior. Man is incapable; God must be able. Man is powerless; God must be omnipotent. Man is weak; God must be sovereign.

We are like the man whom Jesus healed at the pool of Bethesda (John 5:1-9). Just as he was physically impotent so are we spiritually impotent, absolutely unable to walk (spiritually) at all. And our condition is due to our sin, as was the case with the impotent man. "Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee" (John 5:14).

The saving of the sinner demands great power. The devil must be defeated; a rebel must be subdued; a heart of stone must be made a heart of flesh; a new creature must be brought forth; the dead must be raised. This work calls for great power, power that is beyond the power of a mere mortal: miraculous power, supernatural power.

On the part of God, great power is required. Mere begging, pleading, or coaxing will not do. But there must be the exercise of almighty power, such power as was exhibited in the creation of the world. Really every child of God is living evidence of the almighty power of God. On the part of anyone who has been the object of the saving grace of God, there can be no question of the sovereignty of God in salvation. Anyone who knows himself knows the sovereignty of God.

Granted that the power of irresistible grace is a great power, the question remains whether or not it is irresistible power. Granted that the sinner is dead, granted that God must work in salvation, granted that His work is powerful; could it not yet be that this work is not so powerful as to be resisted and frustrated by the sinner? Could it not be that God works to give all men the ability to come to Christ, if they chose to do so? Might not grace only enable men to come to Christ, always conditioned on their free will, so that man could very well choose not to come to Christ, refuse to come to Christ, and resist grace? So the crucial question is this: is the grace of God irresistible?

The answer of the Scriptures and the Reformed faith is: yes! Grace, if it is grace, must be irresistible grace. Because God is an irresistible, sovereign God, His grace is an irresistible and sovereign grace. God and God's grace cannot effectively and ultimately be resisted by the most obstinate of sinners. When God's grace operates to save the sinner, that grace shall triumph in the salvation of that sinner. He will be saved. God will have the victory. Not the power of the devil, not the power of the wicked world, not the power of the sinner himself, shall be able to prevent, overthrow, or frustrate the work of God's grace. The God of the Scriptures is the God Whom Isaiah says in Isaiah 46:10 "... declares the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure." He is the God before Whom Daniel says in Daniel 4:35, "... all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?"

The god of resistible grace is not the God of the Scriptures. He is a weak god, an ineffective god, a powerless god. In reality, he is no god at all, but an idol god. So serious is the denial of irresistible grace!


B. Scripture Passages

But what Scripture passages prove this teaching of irresistible grace? Do the Scriptures support this teaching? Without doubt, they do.

1. Salvation by grace alone.

a. Romans 3:24. Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
b. Romans 4:16. Therefore it (salvation) is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed.
c. Romans 9:16. So then it (salvation) is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.
d. I Corinthians 15:10. But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.
e. Ephesians 2:8. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.

2. Salvation not by man's works.

a. Romans 3:28. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the works of the law.
b. Romans 11:6. And if by grace, then it is 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.
c. Galatians 5:4. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.
d. Ephesians 2:8, 9. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.
e. II Timothy 1:9. Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.
f. Titus 3:5. Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.

3. Repenting and believing by the grace of God.

a. John 3:27. John (the Baptist) answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven.
b. John 6:65. And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given him of my Father.
c Acts 5:31. Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Savior, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.
d. Acts 11:18. When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.
e. Acts 16:14. And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.
f. Acts 18:27. And when he (Apollos) was disposed to pass into Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him: who, when he was come, helped them much which had believed through grace.
g. I Corinthians 4:7. For who maketh thee to differ from another? And what hast thou that thou didst not receive? Now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?
h. Philippians 1:29. For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake.
i. Philippians 2:13. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
j. II Timothy 2:25. In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.

4. Grace is irresistible.

That the grace of salvation is irresistible is the clear teaching of the multitude of Scripture passages that speak of God efficaciously saving sinners. God does not try to save sinners, depending on their cooperation. He does not attempt to save sinners but stands helplessly by unless they at least exercise their free will. He does not do His best to save sinners, always facing the real possibility that His best is not good enough and that the sinner may effectively resist His efforts to save him. No, God saves sinners, sovereignly, efficaciously, irresistibly. This is the language of the Scriptures from beginning to end.

a. Deuteronomy 30:6. And the Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.
b. Isaiah 55:11. So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereunto I sent it.
c. Ezekiel 36:26, 27. And a new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.
d. John 6:37. All that the Father giveth me (Christ) shall come to me: and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.
e. John 6:39. And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.
f. John 6:44, 45. No man can come unto me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.
g. Romans 8:29, 30. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover, whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.

All who are predestinated and called by God are infallibly brought to salvation. The result of their being predestinated and called is that they are justified and glorified. Nothing can prevent the final glorification of any who are predestinated and called.


5. Salvation as rebirth, re-creation, resurrection.

The Scriptures' description of salvation as rebirth, re-creation, and resurrection from the dead leaves beyond question the truth of irresistible grace.

a. Rebirth.

Over and over again the Bible speaks of salvation as a rebirth. This is Jesus' description of salvation in His well-known discourse with Nicodemus in John 3. In John 3:3 Jesus says, "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." Other Scriptures that refer to salvation as a rebirth include John 1:13; 5:21, 24; Ephesians 1:19, 20; 2:1, 5; Colossians 2:13; Titus 3:5; I Peter 1:3; I John 2:29; 3:9; 4:7; 5:1, 4, 18.

That salvation is a rebirth implies that the grace of salvation is irresistible. As far as physical birth is concerned, the child who is born has no say in the matter of whether or not he will be born. He does not cooperate in being born, not even will to be conceived and brought forth. Neither is he able effectively to resist conception and birth. What is true of physical birth is also true of spiritual rebirth. It is not due to us; we do not cooperate in it; nor are we able effectively to resist it.

b Re-creation.

Often the Scriptures describe our salvation in terms of re-creation. Paul writes, for example, in II Corinthians 5:17, "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." Other places in the Scriptures where this figure is employed include Galatians 6:15; Ephesians 2:10; 4:24; Colossians 3:10.

That salvation is a re-creation also implies that the grace of salvation is irresistible. Just ask yourself: "When God created all things in the beginning, how did He create them? Did He create them in such a way that when He spoke the creative word calling each creature into being, it still remained a question whether or not that creature would actually come into being? Did the creature cooperate with God in its creation? Was there a single creature able to resist God's creative word? To ask these questions is to answer them. What was true of God's original creation of all things in the beginning is also true of His still greater work of re-creation.

c. Resurrection.

Still another common figure in the Scriptures to describe God's work of saving lost sinners is resurrection from the dead. Recall the well-known prophecy of the dry bones in Ezekiel 37. In Ephesians 2:1 Paul writes, "And you hath he quickened (made alive again), who were dead in trespasses and sins." Other Scripture passages where this same figure occurs include John 5:28, 29; Romans 6:13; 8:10; 11:15; Ephesians 2:5; Colossians 2:13; 3:1.

The saving of the sinner is a resurrection of the sinner, a resurrecting of him from spiritual death, a raising of him from his being dead in trespasses and sins. By describing salvation as a resurrection from death, the Bible emphasizes that the power that saves the sinner is an irresistible power. It is folly to teach that the work of salvation is due to the cooperation of the sinner. It is folly to teach that in the work of salvation the sinner is able to frustrate and resist God's intentions of saving him. Can a dead man cooperate in his being made alive? Could Lazarus have frustrated Christ's intentions of raising him from the dead? In the last day, when Christ comes again and raises the dead, will those dead bodies be in a position to cooperate in being raised or to refuse to be raised, resisting the power of the resurrection and preventing the will of the exalted Christ that they be raised? Of course not. Neither is the sinner able to cooperate in or resist God's salvation of him.


6. The sovereignty of God's will.

Those texts of the Scriptures which teach the sovereignty of God's will also clearly imply the truth of irresistible grace. If that which God wills always comes to pass, God's purpose to save a sinner is a purpose that must be realized.

a. Psalm 115:3. But our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased.
b. Isaiah 46:9, 10. Remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.
c. Daniel 4:35. And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?

C. Difficult Passages

Against the doctrine of irresistible grace, appeal is often made to certain passages of Scripture which seem to teach that it is indeed possible for the sinner to resist and thus frustrate the grace of God.

Two passages may be cited as representative. In Matthew 23:37 Jesus laments, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, but ye would not!" Acts 7:51 records Stephen's accusation against the unbelieving Jews, "Ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye."

In explanation of these passages let it be understood that the doctrine of irresistible grace does not mean that the natural man does not stand opposed to God, God's Christ, God's Spirit, and God's Word. He certainly does. He is a rebel against God and a hater of God. There is no love of God in him nor desire to please God. This is simply what it means that the sinner is totally depraved. In this sense it certainly is true that the sinner resists God and salvation.

But the question is: can the sinner effectively resist God's grace? Can he maintain his resistance against God even when God has determined to save and has begun to save him? Can he frustrate the Holy Spirit when once the Spirit has begun to work in his heart and life? The answer to all these questions is: no! In this sense, God cannot be resisted. His grace is an irresistible grace.


1. Matthew 23:37.

As far as Matthew 23:37 is concerned, yes, the wicked leaders of the Jews did everything they could to prevent Jesus' gathering of Jerusalem's children. They stoned the prophets and opposed Jesus' preaching and teaching. They discredited Jesus before the people and threatened reprisal against any who openly confessed Him. In no way does this imply, however, that these wicked leaders succeeded in preventing Jesus from gathering Jerusalem's children. They were gathered and saved, that is, the elect among them, not withstanding the resistance of the wicked rulers.


2. Acts 7:51.

Stephen's accusation against the unbelieving Jews in Acts 7:51, that as their fathers had always resisted the Holy Ghost, so did they, does not either imply that grace is resistible. Stephen is not talking about these wicked Jews effectively resisting the grace of the Holy Spirit working within them to save them. Not at all! He is rather talking about their opposition to the Holy Spirit in the sense that they constantly opposed the word of the Holy Spirit in the Scriptures and the prophets who were the instruments of the Holy Spirit to bring that word. As their fathers resisted Moses and Aaron, so did the Jews of Stephen's day resist Jesus and His apostles. They did not resist the Holy Spirit within them, for they were devoid of the Holy Spirit. The proof is their rejection and stoning of Stephen. But their resistance was to the external call, commands, reproofs, and teaching of the servants of God sent by the Spirit.


D. Objections

1. Man is saved against his will.

Against Calvinism's teaching of irresistible grace the enemies of this truth raise several objections. One of their objections is that if God's grace is irresistible, then man is actually saved contrary to his will. The caricature of Calvinism is that it teaches that Christ draws sinners kicking and screaming into heaven; that God forces men against their wills to be saved. Those who hold to irresistible grace are charged with teaching that God deals with men as senseless stocks and blocks.

We reject this charge! This is not the teaching of Calvinism, but a gross misrepresentation.

Neither is it the case that one defends the truth of sovereign grace by denying, or downplaying, the activity of faith. One does not show himself to be a staunch advocate of irresistible grace by getting nervous whenever someone speaks of our repenting, our believing, or our coming to Christ, as if this puts the emphasis on man, man's work, and man's ability, and jeopardizes the truth of sovereign grace.

The reality is that the fruit, the infallible effect of God's grace in the sinner is that although before he did not believe in Jesus Christ, now he believes in Jesus Christ. Although before he did not repent of his sins, now he repents of his sins. Although before he would not come to Christ, now he wills and actually does come to Christ. Irresistible grace does not rule out repentance and faith but rather guarantees that the sinner will repent and will believe in Jesus Christ.

An illustration of this truth we have in Jesus' miraculous healing of the lame man at the pool of Bethesda in John 5. That impotent man had absolutely no ability in himself to walk, nor was he in any position to cooperate with Jesus in the miracle of his healing. But when Jesus spoke the word that healed him, that impotent man was healed and the effect of his being healed was that he did what he could not do before - he took up his bed and walked.

That our willing and doing are the effect of God's grace at work in our lives is plainly taught in the Holy Scriptures. In Psalm 110:3 David declares, "Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power." In Philippians 2:13 Paul writes, "For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure."


2. Preaching and the other means of grace are unnecessary.

Another objection against the truth of irresistible grace is that it effectively rules out the use of means, particularly the means of the preaching of the gospel. If man does not have the ability in himself to believe, to accept Jesus Christ and salvation, why call men to faith in Jesus Christ? If it does not lie in the ability of every man to cooperate in salvation, why preach the gospel to all men? If God's grace is irresistible and if the will of God to save certain men will certainly come to pass, why should the church be concerned to preach the gospel at home or on the mission field? Will not God save his people regardless?

This objection does violence to the truth that although God's grace is irresistible, that irresistible grace of God is worked in men through definite means, chief of which is the preaching of the gospel. The divine rule in this matter is that God works and God maintains His grace in the hearts of His elect people by means of the preaching of the gospel.

The warning of the Canons of Dordt, III, IV, 19 is in order here.

As the almighty operation of God, whereby He supports this our natural life, does not exclude, but requires the use of means, by which God of His infinite mercy and goodness hath chosen to exert His influence, so also the before-mentioned supernatural operation of God, by which we are regenerated, in no wise excludes, or subverts the use of the gospel, which the most wise God has ordained to be the food of the soul. Wherefore, as the apostles, and teachers who succeeded them, piously instructed the people concerning this grace of God, to His glory, and the abasement of all pride, and in the meantime, however, neglected not to keep them in the exercise of the Word, sacraments and discipline; so even to this day, be it far from either instructors or instructed to presume to tempt God in the church by separating what He of His good pleasure hath most intimately joined together.

E. Denials

1. Free will.

The outstanding denial of irresistible grace is the popular teaching concerning the free will of the sinner. Those who hold to free will not only teach that man has the ability within himself to accept Jesus Christ but also teach that it is in the power of every man also to reject Jesus Christ, to resist and frustrate the operations of God's grace, and to prevent Christ's efforts to save him.

This was the teaching concerning the power of free will by Erasmus at the time of the Reformation. In his book On the Freedom of the Will, Erasmus states: "I conceive of free-will ... as a power of the human will by which a man may apply himself to those things that lead to eternal salvation, or turn away from the same."

The Arminians at the Synod of Dordt ascribed the same power to free will. To the Synod they stated their position as follows:

That this grace of God is the beginning, continuance, and accomplishment of all good, even to this extent, that the regenerate man himself, without prevenient or assisting, awakening, following, and cooperative grace, can neither think, will, nor do good, nor withstand any temptations to evil; so that all good deeds or movements, that can be conceived must be ascribed to the grace of God in Christ. But as respects the mode of operation of this grace, it is not irresistible.

Although the statements of Erasmus and of the Arminians at the time of the Synod of Dordt are somewhat guarded, the greatest claims for free will are made today. Almost unlimited power is ascribed to the will of the sinner. Free will is able to accept Jesus Christ offered in the gospel, mighty to open up the heart to a pleading Savior, capable of making a decision for God. Indeed, free will is more powerful than God Himself, for it can resist God and prevent the operations of God's saving grace.

It ought to be clear that to teach free will is to deny irresistible grace. If the power of free will is not only that it can accept Jesus Christ and salvation but also reject the same, man is able effectively to resist God' grace. If God desires the salvation of all men, but salvation depends on the exercise of his free will, it is necessarily implied that although God desires the salvation of a certain man, that man may be able to frustrate God's desire to save him.

In fact, not only is the teaching of free will a denial of the irresistible character of God's grace, it is really a denial of grace altogether. If salvation depends on a power in man, a power that is able either to accept or to reject salvation, salvation becomes a work of man. And if salvation is due to a work of man, however small that work may be, it is not any longer due to the grace of God.


2. Common grace.

The teaching of common grace leads to a denial of irresistible grace. That is not hard to demonstrate. Common grace is a grace of God that is shown to all men but a grace of God that, although it is shown to all men, does not save them. To teach a non-saving grace of God, to teach a grace of God of which all men are the objects, is the first step towards denying irresistible grace. In fact, in those churches in which common grace has become accepted dogma, there has been a weakening and even on occasion open renunciation of the doctrine of irresistible grace.


3. The free offer of the gospel.

The teaching of the free offer of the gospel, inasmuch as it presupposes the free will of the sinner, is also an implicit denial of the irresistibility of grace. If the gospel is not any longer the power of God unto salvation, as Paul says that it is in Romans 1:16, not the means by which God works grace in the hearts of the elect, but only an offer of salvation, dependent on the sinner's acceptance of that offer; then it is clearly implied that the sinner may very well choose to reject the gospel and the offer of grace and salvation in the gospel. Then, although God wants to save him, although God expresses His love for him in the gospel, the sinner is able to frustrate that desire and love of God. The doctrine of irresistible grace is effectively thrown out the window.


F. Practical Importance

The importance of this doctrine is great. It belongs to the message of the gospel. That makes it an important doctrine. From various points of view it is important for the church and for every Christian personally to hold to the truth of irresistible grace.

1. Salvation by grace.

The maintaining of irresistible grace is important for our confession of the truth that salvation is of grace. To deny irresistible grace, to teach free will, is to teach that salvation depends upon the will and work of man. It is to teach grace plus works rather than grace alone. That is not the gospel, but another gospel, a false gospel, a gospel that is no gospel at all.


2. Assurance of salvation.

The believer's assurance depends on the truth of irresistible grace. If it is possible that God's grace can be resisted, that after God has begun his saving work in me, it is still possible that I can resist it and lose it, how can I ever be sure of my salvation? I cannot be. The doctrine of free will and the teaching of resistible grace are cruel doctrines. They strip the child of God of the assurance of salvation. Then he must live in constant doubt and fear whether he will ever be saved. That is frightening! That is paralyzing! That is depressing!


3. Intercessory prayer.

If God's grace were not irresistible, it would be foolish to pray for the conversion or repentance of anyone. If God stands by powerlessly before the dread majesty of man's free will, what sense would there be to pray for Him to convert anyone. What despair for the Christian married to an unbelieving mate! What despair for those believing parents who have a wayward child! What despair for that church that has straying members! On the other hand, what hope we may have when we understand, as each of us knows by our own experience, that the grace of God is a sovereign and an irresistible grace.


G. Relation to the Other Points

Certainly the truth of irresistible grace establishes the truth of the sovereignty of God. If God is sovereign, and He is, the grace of God must be an irresistible grace. To deny irresistible grace is to deny really the sovereignty of God. Then God and God's will are dependent on man and man's will. Then Christ is reduced to a beggar. And the Holy Spirit is a weakling. God is put in the position of Darius who earnestly desired to save Daniel from the lion's den, but could not ( Dan. 6). Because God is God, the almighty God, His grace is irresistible grace.

Irresistible grace is necessitated by man's total depravity. Exactly because man is the sinner, unworthy of salvation, his salvation must be by grace. And since man is such a sinner that there is no good in him, no ability for good, no desire even for the good, that grace of salvation must be an irresistible grace.

Unconditional election establishes the basis for irresistible grace. As God's salvation of men eternally did not rest on any worth or works in those men, was completely unconditional, so His salvation of them in time does not rest on any of their worth or works. And that is exactly the teaching of irresistible grace.

The teaching of irresistible grace preserves the truth of limited atonement. For if free will and resistible grace are true, then it were very well possible that Christ would have died in vain. Then, although Christ died for a man and wants to save that man, Christ is frustrated because of the unwillingness of the sinner to be saved.

Irresistible grace also guarantees the preservation of the saints. Since God's grace that brings salvation to a man is a sovereign, almighty grace, the grace of God that continues to abide in a man is a sovereign, almighty grace. Just as it cannot be frustrated in its initial operations, neither can it be frustrated ultimately. Those who are brought to salvation by the irresistible grace of God are by the power of that same grace preserved in salvation.


Questions from the Study Guide to aid in understanding and review.


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Chapter 6

The Perseverance of the Saints

The last of the Five Points of Calvinism is represented by the letter P in the word TULIP and is the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. This doctrine deals with the question whether those who are once brought to faith and salvation will continue in faith and in that salvation to the very end or, in other words, whether those who once believe will finally and surely go to heaven.

There are some who call themselves Calvinists who have reservations about this doctrine and some who reject it altogether, though they may accept some or all of the rest of the Five Points. In some cases this is due to a misunderstanding of the doctrine, and it is our hope and prayer that this presentation of the doctrine will not contribute to those misunderstandings but rather make as clear as possible what the Bible teaches.


A. The Name

There are three different names that are used for this doctrine.

1. The perseverance of saints.

The name used in the original Five Points of Calvinism, the Canons of Dordt, is the perseverance of the saints. This name, as we shall see, emphasizes the responsibility of every believer to continue or "persevere" in faith and holiness.


2. The preservation of saints.

Many Calvinists prefer to speak of the preservation of the saints because this name emphasizes the same thing that the other points emphasize, i.e., the sovereignty of God in salvation and the truth that salvation is all of grace from beginning to end. The emphasis of this name, then, would be on the fact that God "preserves" all those whom He has chosen and redeemed and in whose hearts He has worked by the power of His irresistible grace.


3. Eternal security.

The third name that is used for this doctrine is eternal security. This name emphasizes the comfort that believers receive from this doctrine, that is, that they are secure in their salvation not only through this life but into eternity.

It is worthwhile knowing all three of these names because they all emphasize important facets of this doctrine, all of which we will be talking about as we study the doctrine here.


B. The Doctrine

Whatever name is used for this doctrine, it teaches that all those who receive salvation can never again lose it or fall away from it, i.e., "once saved, always saved." The words perseverance, preservation, and eternal security all emphasize this.

1. Saints.

When we speak of the perseverance or preservation of saints, then we are emphasizing the truth that those who are saved persevere to the end as a result of the grace of God, not as a result of their own strength or works, but always in the way of real, personal holiness.

The name saints when it is applied to believers (as it is in almost all of the epistles of Paul, i.e., Rom. 1:7; I Cor. 1:2; II Cor. 1:1; Eph. 1:1; Phil. 1:1; etc.) is a name that refers to their holiness. The name, in fact, means holy ones. And it is very important for our discussion that the doctrine is not just called perseverance, or preservation, but the perseverance or preservation of saints. It is important, first of all, because it reminds us of the real issue. The question raised by this doctrine is not just whether or not the Bible teaches that a person once saved is always saved but also what the Bible teaches about saints. Our definition of a saint will probably determine whether or not we believe in this doctrine and how we interpret the teaching of the Scriptures. If a saint is a self-made person, i.e., one who has made himself holy or who is able to be holy by his own strength, then, obviously, whether or not he will always be holy also depends on him and whether or not he will continue to make himself holy.

The Bible, however, indicates that saints are holy only by the grace of God, that they are only sinners of themselves and have no natural holiness or power to be holy, thus teaching us that it is God Who makes saints. Then, too, it is clear that if saints are made such by God, their continuing in holiness also depends on Him and on His grace and not on themselves.

If you define a saint, therefore, as one who is chosen unconditionally from eternity, whose sins are fully paid for by the blood of the atonement, and who is inwardly regenerated and renewed by the irresistible power of the Holy Spirit, then it is impossible to believe in anything else but the preservation and perseverance of that same saint.


2. Preservation.

It is exactly this that the name preservation of saints emphasizes - that God by His grace and in His goodness, sovereignly and eternally preserves those in whose hearts He has begun to work and finally brings them to glory in Christ. From this point of view, the doctrine is only an extension of the doctrine of irresistible grace, for it is exactly that irresistible grace which preserves and keeps safe God's saints and brings them to glory. To deny this is to teach that God's work can come to nothing and His power be thwarted, in other words, that His grace is not after all irresistible.


3. Perseverance.

However, that God sovereignly preserves His chosen and redeemed saints does not take away their responsibility to live holy and thankful lives. True Calvinism has never taught this and never will. God does preserve His people in salvation but always in such a way that they also persevere in holiness. That is why the Canons of Dordt use the name perseverance of saints: to make it as clear as possible that this doctrine does not give His saints the excuse to be anything but saints in their conduct. It is emphatically saints who are preserved by the grace of God. Those who are unholy, wicked, and profane do not and cannot have the hope of being preserved.


4. Falling but no falling away.

On the other hand, this doctrine does not mean that God's saints never fall into sin or temptation. The very names that are used, preservation and perseverance, imply that God's people are surrounded by spiritual dangers and enemies and that they themselves are always liable to fall into temptation and to be overcome by their enemies, the devil, the wicked world, and their own sinfulness. All the doctrine means is that as far as God is concerned, He never allows them to fall away completely or to lose their salvation but always brings them back. As far as they are concerned, it means that they, by the grace of God, always come again to repentance and begin anew the struggle to be holy. The parables of the lost sheep and of the prodigal son are illustrations of what this doctrine teaches, the former parable teaching especially the preserving power of God in and through Jesus Christ, our Shepherd and the latter parable demonstrating our repentance and spiritual renewal.

In summary, then, this doctrine teaches the following:

a. That saints are such by election, the atonement, and sovereign grace.

b. That they cannot, therefore, be lost.

c. That this assurance of eternal salvation does not remove the obligation they have to live as saints in the world, holy and obedient.

d. That they must be preserved and persevere exactly because of their own weakness and sinfulness and because of their spiritual enemies, the devil and the wicked world.


C. Scripture Passages

As always, it is necessary to show that this doctrine is biblical, as indeed it is, being taught both in the Old and the New Testaments.

1. Passages which speak of preservation.

a. Psalm 37:23, 24. The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand.

This passage reminds us that it is possible for God's people to fall into sin and temptation but in contrast to that also speaks of the impossibility of their falling away completely and ascribes this not only to the power of God but to His eternal decree ("his steps are ordered by the Lord").

b. Psalm 37:28. For the Lord loveth judgment, and forsaketh not his saints; they are preserved forever: but the seed of the wicked shall be cut off.

This passage not only speaks both of preservation and of the fact that it is the saints who are preserved but also indicates that this all depends on God. The saints are "His," and they are preserved because God in His faithfulness does not forsake them, and He does not forsake them because He is righteous.

c. Isaiah 45:17. But Israel shall be saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation: ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded world without end.

Perhaps even more important than the passage itself here is the context which grounds the assurance of salvation in the power of God and insists (v. 19) that to say otherwise would make God's call powerless, and He Himself unrighteous and a liar, for He would then be promising what He Himself was unable to give.

d. Isaiah 49:16. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.

Not only does this passage connect election and preservation in a most beautiful way, as though the names of God's people are actually engraved in the palms of His hands but assures God's people of this in answer to their fears. This verse is an answer to Zion's complaint: "The Lord hath forsaken me, and my God hath forgotten me" (v. 14).

e. Jeremiah 32:40. And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, and they shall not turn away from me.

This passage is particularly important because it makes Israel's restoration after the captivity a figure and type of the preservation of the church in every age, assuring the people of God that the fruit of God's grace to them will be that they will not turn away from Him. That, clearly, shows the connection between the grace of God which preserves and the resultant perseverance of the saints.

f. Luke 22:31, 32. And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.

Here Christ not only assures Peter, and with him everyone of us, that He will pray for Peter in time of temptation, knowing already what will happen, but also tells Peter that even when he falls he will be converted in answer to Jesus' prayer.

g. John 3:16. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Strangely enough, this passage, which is so often quoted by those who believe salvation depends on the choice of man's own will whether or not he will believe and whether he will continue to believe and have everlasting life actually teaches the very opposite, that is, that those who believe shall not perish, but by virtue of their faith have everlasting life, which we know is a gift of God (Rom. 6:23). Similar passages are John 3:36 and 5:24.

h. John 6:39. And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.

Here Jesus not only shows the connection between election and the atonement (He actually saves [does not lose] all those whom the Father gave Him and does that according to the Father's own will) but also the connection between both of those doctrines and preservation (those whom the Father gave Him and whom He does not lose shall also be raised up again in the last day). This passage, then, is a very beautiful and powerful reminder that the guarantee of perseverance and eternal security is not our faithfulness but God's grace in election and in the cross.

i. John 10:27-29. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand.

Not only does this passage ground the preservation of saints in election ("I know them") and in the almighty power of God which cannot be thwarted ("My Father ... is greater than all"), but read in the context of the whole chapter which speaks of Jesus as the Shepherd of the sheep, it also shows that these sheep are preserved and must be preserved because the blood of the Good Shepherd was shed for them. Notice, too, that all this involves the sheep's following Jesus. They are not preserved to walk their own way but unto holiness of life and obedience to Jesus.

j. John 17:11, 24. And now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.
Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.

This passage is especially important in light of Luke 22:32 which shows that Jesus' prayers on behalf of His people are surely answered. Here Jesus is not only praying that His people may be preserved in the world (v. 11) but also for their final heavenly glory. Thus the preservation of saints is founded also on the perfect intercession of Christ, which would be revealed as powerless and ineffectual if they were not kept.

k. Romans 8:35-39. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

This passage assures believers of three things, first, that persecution and other such trials will not cause them to be separated from Christ; second, that neither will spiritual powers, including the devil himself be able to do that; and third, that this is true because of the love of God in Christ, which the context says is revealed in the death of Christ, in His resurrection and intercession, and in our justification before God. So, once again, the passage shows so very clearly that for saints to fall away, the cross and intercession of Christ would have to be made of none effect and the love and grace of God become powerless.

l. I Corinthians 1:7-9. So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful by whom ye were called in the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

That we are confirmed unto the end is simply an evidence of the faithfulness of God Who called us. For us not to be confirmed unto the end and unto blamelessness would be unfaithfulness on God's part, not just to us, but to Himself and His own work, for He called us.

m. II Corinthians 4:8. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.

Here is another passage which shows that the perseverance of the saints does not mean that God's people are preserved from all troubles, trials, and temptations but only that God protects them in their tribulations and brings them safely through.

n. Philippians 1:6. Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.

Here again, the perseverance of saints is ascribed to the faithfulness of God and the work of God. That salvation is of grace at the beginning means that it is all of grace and shall certainly be finished in all those in whom it is begun.

o. II Timothy 2:19. Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, let everyone that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.

This assured statement is made in the face of the evil work of those who had been troubling the church and had even "overthrown the faith of some." The Word of God means to say, therefore, that whatever had happened to those whose faith was "overthrown," they were never the Lord's, and the only conclusion one can come to, then, is that their faith also was only a sham, what is sometimes called a "temporary faith."

Even more significant is the fact that the seal, or assurance that God's work will not come to nothing or be overthrown, is not only election ("the Lord knoweth them that are His") but our sanctification ("let everyone that nameth the name of the Lord depart from iniquity"). This does not mean that we are preserved by our good works but that we have the assurance of preservation through good works and cannot be preserved except in the way of good works and holiness.

p. II Timothy 4:18. And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

There is no one who would dare to say this if his future glory depended in any way on himself and no one who would be able to say it if he did not know that God in His faithfulness does preserve His people.

q. Hebrews 7:25. Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.

This is another passage which connects our preservation and Christ's intercession. But remember that it is not only Christ's prayers that go unanswered if any of those who are once saved fall away but also that His blood is valueless for it is on the basis of His blood that He makes intercession for His people.

r. Hebrews 10:14. For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.

The point of this passage is simply that it is Christ's sacrifice which assures every child of God once saved of reaching perfection. That means that Christ's death is indeed powerful to save (not just making salvation a possibility) and also that it is powerful to earn for His people every blessing of salvation including eternal life and glory.

s. I Peter 1:5. Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

This passage, too, not only speaks plainly of preservation ("who are kept by the power of God") but shows again that preservation and the assurance of preservation in no way detract from or take away the calling to believe and do the works of a living faith. Those who are kept are kept through faith, and that is the only way they can or will be kept.

t. I Peter 1:23. Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever.

This particular passage is important because it speaks of regeneration, and of the fact that the seed, whatever that may be, by which we are born again, is incorruptible and abides forever.


2. Passages which speak of perseverance.

Many of the passages at which we have already looked show the connection between God's preservation and our persevering and make it very clear that God does not preserve His people without also giving them grace and strength to persevere in holiness and obedience. There are a number of passages, however, which emphasize our calling to persevere and since the doctrine is usually called the perseverance of the saints, it is good that those passages also be added to ones we have already cited.

a. Genesis 18:19. For I know him that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.

Here God speaks of Abraham's obedience as the way in which he will fulfill the promises He made to Abraham and speaks also of the certainty of Abraham's continuing in obedience.

b. Psalm 119:33. Teach me, O Lord, the way of thy statutes; and I shall keep it unto the end.

Not only does David express in this passage his confidence that he will persevere in the keeping of God's law until the end but ascribes this to the grace of God which teaches him those commandments. This illustrates, therefore, the teaching that perseverance is by the grace of God and not by works, though it results in a life of good works.

c. I John 3:2, 3. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.

There is probably no other text in the Scriptures which speaks so plainly, on the one hand, of the fact that once being made sons of God we have the certain assurance that we shall someday be like Christ and shall see Him as He is, and on the other hand, of the fact that this hope does not beget carelessness and carnality but rather holiness and purity.

d. I John 5:18. We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.

This passage not only shows that the devil can no more overcome those who are regenerated but also that the regenerated can no more commit the unpardonable sin. That is the sin about which John is talking here, as is clear from verses 16 and 17, though he calls it the sin unto death. And certainly if the regenerated child of God cannot commit the sin unto death, he cannot fall away from God. Rather he will keep himself, or persevere, even though the whole world lies in wickedness.

Also, it should be emphasized once again, that the many commands in the Scriptures to continue and persevere, to be holy and continue holy, do not imply that the child of God, redeemed by the blood of Christ and regenerated by the Holy Spirit, can fall away from grace and salvation and go lost. They only imply that he can fall, even fall very grievously. Nor do they imply that the doctrine of perseverance encourages careless, immoral, unholy living by Christians. In fact, these many commands, instead of implying that he can fall away and be lost or be and remain a carnal Christian, are exactly what God uses both to keep him from falling away and from becoming careless.


D. Difficult Passages

There are a number of Scripture passages which are often cited as contradicting the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. Before we look at these passages individually, there are several comments that need to be made that apply to them all in general.

First, it cannot be denied that these passages do speak of persons "falling away" and perishing, even of their faith being "overthrown."

Second, it cannot be that the Word of God contradicts itself. Either the Word teaches perseverance or it does not. And we do well at this point to remember that mere preponderance of passages which speak of God's faithfulness and of the power of Christ and of the Holy Spirit as the guarantees of continued and eternal salvation would indicate that the Scriptures do teach the perseverance of the saints. The passages which might seem to contradict this are only a few.

Third, all these passages which are used to teach a "falling away of saints" can be answered by one passage of Scripture, I John 2:19; "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us."

I John 2:19 clearly teaches that those who fall away were never really part of the body of believers or of the faith, though it may have appeared for a time that they were. The very fact that they fall away, if indeed they fall away finally and forever, is proof that they never had a part or place in the kingdom of heaven and were never partakers of the saving grace of God in Christ Jesus. They never were elect, never were purchased by the blood, never did receive the Holy Spirit and regeneration, never were justified or sanctified, and never had the gift of holiness. They were the stony and thorny soil and the wayside in the parable of Jesus, and the Word, however it affected them, never had root or fruit.

With that in mind the passages which are quoted against the doctrine of perseverance can easily be reconciled with it.


1. I Samuel 10:6.

This passage speaks of King Saul's receiving the Holy Spirit and even says he would prophesy and be turned into another man. This is sometimes used to contradict the perseverance of saints in light of the rest of the story of Saul which shows him becoming more and more wicked and finally dying in his sins.

We should remember several things about Saul, however. (1) That the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of prophecy was sometimes given to those who were not saved. The best examples are Balaam and Caiaphas. Thus, the fact that Saul prophesied does not prove him a child of God. (2) The Holy Spirit gives other gifts besides the blessings of salvation, and He certainly did give to Saul the gift of courage and zeal, both of which were necessary for his work as king (cf. 11:6). This is very likely all that Samuel meant when he said that Saul would become another man, since Saul was originally too fearful and cowardly to assume the duties of the kingdom (10:21, 22). (3) There is no indication in the Scriptures that Saul had any of the marks of regeneration. He never showed any signs of true repentance, even in the beginning, nor any zeal for God. (4) In fact, the testimony of the Scriptures leads us in the opposite direction and seems to indicate that Saul was not only an unregenerated person but was known as such in Israel, so that this prophesying became a byword among the people for anything out of character (cf. 10:11, 12).


2. Galatians 5:4.

Here is a passage which actually uses the words "fallen from grace." Paul is speaking here to those who wanted to make circumcision a condition for salvation and for membership in the Christian church, and he tells them that if this is what they believe then not only is Christ become of no effect to them but they are fallen from grace.

The correct explanation of this passage is very simple. Paul is not saying that these people once received the grace of God and have now lost it and are perishing, but that they, by their belief in salvation through law-works, have separated themselves from salvation by grace and from the cross of Christ. They stand by their own teaching as those for whom the cross is of "none effect" and to whom grace is meaningless.


3. II Timothy 2:18.

This is the passage that refers to the faith of some being overthrown by the false teaching of Hymanaeus and Philetus. There are two things that must be remembered here: (1) in the very next verse the Word of God assures us that the Lord knows them that are His and at least implies that those who are His cannot be overthrown, and (2) that the Scriptures do speak of a faith which is not a true and saving faith (Matt. 13:19-21; James 2:14-20). That is the only kind of faith which can be overthrown, for true faith is a gift and work of God. Those, then, of whom the Scriptures are speaking here are also those who never had true faith, whom the Lord never knew and who were never of the company of true believers and never departed from iniquity. They were hypocrites.


4. Hebrews 6:4-6.

This passage is probably most often used to teach a falling away of saints, since it speaks of those who were enlightened, tasted of the heavenly gift, were made partakers of the Holy Spirit, tasted the good word of God and the powers of the world to come, and who yet fall away and not only are not but cannot be renewed to repentance.

Again, it should be remembered here that the Holy Spirit gives other gifts and does other works than salvation, and for the rest, that it is not impossible for an unbelieving person to see, at least intellectually and emotionally the blessedness of salvation, to the extent that he even feigns faith and obedience (Matt. 13:19-21; Acts 8:9-23; 26:28). Also, it may not be forgotten that this passage, rather than teaching that it is possible to come to be saved over and over again, instead teaches the impossibility of renewing to repentance these people who are described here. Finally, if this passage does indeed teach a falling away of saints, then it contradicts itself, for in verses 9-19 the chapter teaches the perseverance of saints, founding the hope of perseverance on the immutability of God's own counsel and oath.

We must conclude, therefore, that this passage also speaks of those who do come under the gospel and its call, who are taught the Scriptures, hear the promises, and perhaps even respond emotionally to the gospel, but who are nevertheless spiritually dead and never bear true fruit like the barren earth of which Hebrews 6:8 speaks. Rather, therefore, than teaching a falling away of saints, it speaks of terrible judgment that shall come on all those who hear the gospel and turn from it and of their greater damnation, and it stands as warning to all who hear.


5. Hebrews 10:26, 27.

This passage is sometimes interpreted as though it teaches that it is possible for sacrifice to be made once for a person's sins and then for that person through unbelief to lose that salvation and come under the judgment of God.

This is not what the text says, however. We should note that the passage very carefully speaks of "those who have received the knowledge of the truth" and does not say that sacrifice for sin was made for them. In fact, the word more in the KJV leaves an entirely wrong impression. The idea is not that there is no additional sacrifice for sin (over and above that which they have already received) but that there is no longer any possibility of sacrifice for sin for them. In other words, the passage is talking about those who commit what is sometimes known as the "unforgiveable sin," that is, those who with full knowledge of the truth wilfully reject it and who, by that, show themselves beyond any hope of salvation.


6. II Peter 2:1.

This passage, too, at first glance might be taken as contradicting the perseverance of the saints, and so it is sometimes quoted as though it says that some come to deny the Lord Who bought them. The passage then would be speaking of those who had been purchased by the blood of Christ, and who perhaps had even been brought to believe that but now deny it to their own condemnation and destruction.

It should be noted, however, that the text really says the opposite about these people. It not only calls them false teachers but says that they brought in, i.e., into the church, with them their damnable heresies. Nor is the idea of the passage that Christ bought them and now they deny Him but rather that their heresy is exactly that they deny the blood of atonement and that it was shed either for them or for anyone as the only way of salvation. Literally, the passage says that they deny "the Lord having bought them." And so the passage not only does not contradict the rest of the Scriptures but really does not speak to the matter of perseverance at all.


E. Objection

The chief objection that is brought against the doctrine of perseverance is that it leads to carelessness on the part of Christians, so that they are not as concerned about holiness and Christian living as they should be.

Against this objection stand all the passages cited above which show that the doctrine of perseverance is in no sense of the word a denial of our responsibility to be godly and holy in all our conduct and speech and even in our thoughts and motives.

It is interesting, though, that the Bible itself deals with this objection in several places. Both in Romans 3:5-8 and in Romans 6:1, 2 Paul deals with the idea that grace encourages sinning. That, of course, is a step beyond the idea that sovereign grace leaves a person without any reason to be holy. In this case, some were apparently saying that the doctrines of grace (including perseverance) were themselves a reason for sinning, since the more a person sins, the more God's grace is revealed.

The Bible deals very harshly with this idea and with those who taught it. In Romans 3:8 Paul says that those who say such things speak slander and will suffer just damnation. His answer in Romans 6:2 is by itself a sufficient answer to all who might think this. "God," Paul says, "forbids it."

But even in Romans 6, Paul goes on to explain what is really the answer of the Scriptures to all such objections, that is, that grace is one. The same grace by which we are chosen, redeemed, and preserved, also leads us inevitably to holiness by bringing us regeneration, sanctification, calling, and conversion. No one can have just part of that grace. He cannot possibly be chosen and justified without also being sanctified and made holy. If he has no holiness, the only possible explanation is that he is not chosen and redeemed either. There cannot possibly be such a thing as a "carnal Christian."


F. Denials

1. Roman Catholicism.

On the one hand, the Roman Catholic Church teaches that the grace of justification can be lost, and not just the assurance of justification. This, according to Roman Catholic teaching, is true to the extent that a man who has lost that grace must be justified all over again. In fact, one loses one's justification every time one commits a mortal sin and is re-justified through the sacrament of penance. It is also possible, according to Roman Catholic teaching, to lose even faith through infidelity, which is far more serious. This, of course, goes along with the Roman Catholic teaching of salvation by good works. If salvation is by works, then to cease from works is to lose salvation. The conclusion, therefore, of the Roman Catholic Church regarding perseverance is that though there is hope for it, there is no absolute certainty of it.

This clearly contradicts the teaching of the Scriptures, which found the certainty of perseverance not on our faithfulness and good works but on the grace and sovereignty of God.

On the other hand, the Roman Catholic Church encourages a false security by teaching a kind of automatic salvation merely through the receiving of the sacraments from the church. This is really a denial of the perseverance of saints, since it encourages carelessness and wickedness.


2. Arminianism.

Arminianism, the false teaching against which the Five Points of Calvinism were originally formulated, teaches and has always taught that it is possible to be redeemed in Christ and regenerated by the Spirit and yet lose everything and perish everlastingly. Along with this, Arminianism teaches that it is possible not only for believers to commit the sin unto death, but also for those who have fallen away to be regenerated over again and even often again.

This not only contradicts those passages which clearly teach the perseverance of saints but even the passage which is most often used to defend a falling away of saints, Hebrews 6:1-4, which states that there is no renewing to repentance for those who fall away. It should not be forgotten, however, that this denial of perseverance is really rooted in a denial of unconditional election. If election is indeed unconditional, then it guarantees perseverance. If it depends on man's works or faith, then perseverance does also and is not guaranteed. Thus the difference between Arminianism and Calvinism is not just that one denies and the other accepts the doctrine of perseverance, but that they each have a different understanding of what a saint is. Arminianism views a saint as one who is such by his own faith and good works, while Calvinism looks at the saint as someone made such by God and only by God. This, of course, makes all the difference in the world, for if we are saints by our own faith and obedience, then our continuing as such depends on our faithfulness and continuance. If we are saints by the grace of God, then our persevering depends also upon that sure, faithful, infallible grace and only upon it.

I Peter 1:23 is especially important here because it shows that regeneration, the very first work of God's grace in us, is something that takes place through the planting of an incorruptible and ever-abiding seed.


3. Free will.

This teaching, that man has of himself a freewill to choose God and salvation and which views faith as an act of man's own will, is really just a form of Arminianism. Obviously, it has no room for any doctrine of perseverance, since if the faith by which we are saved is indeed an act of our own will, then whether or not we retain it also depends on our will, which can and does change. Only if salvation depends on God's will and not on man's can there be any security and hope of perseverance for saints.


4. Antinomianism.

This error is on the opposite side of the spectrum from Arminianism. This error teaches that because God preserves His people, because election is sure, and because the blood of the cross is efficacious, there is no urgency in the call to holiness and good works, and that it is possible that a Christian, chosen and redeemed, continue carnal and unholy, that he need not and even cannot do the good work of prayer and worshiping God, and that it is a repudiation of the doctrines of sovereign grace and perseverance to read and preach the law of God and call men to repentance, faith, holiness, and perseverance in the same.

The misunderstanding that leads to these errors is that the call to repentance, faith, and holiness implies that sinners in and of themselves have the ability to heed that call, whether it be the call to faith or the call to persevere in faith. That is not true, for the call of the gospel is powerful only to those who receive the Spirit and is heard by the rest only for their condemnation, not at all implying that they are able to heed it.

Even more important is the fact that the Scriptures flatly contradict this error. Not only do they teach generally that the doctrines of sovereign grace do not encourage or even allow for sin and carelessness (Rom. 6:1, 2) but also that the doctrine of perseverance does not do so either. I John 2:2, 3 teaches that most plainly: "He that hath this hope (of persevering to the end and seeing Christ) purifieth himself even as he is pure."

Rather similar is the popular teaching today that there is such a thing as a carnal Christian. This teaching arises out of an Arminian type of evangelism that is done with the altar call and which teaches the theology of salvation by "accepting Jesus" and which most often results neither in godliness nor even in faithful church membership. Thus in the interests of preserving the appearance of success which this kind of evangelism with its large numbers of "conversions" appears to have, this new class of Christians has been invented.


5. Perfectionism.

Perfectionism goes to the opposite extreme and denies entirely the need for God's preserving grace or for our persevering by that grace, because it teaches that it is possible, desirable, and even normal for a Christian to live a life that is free from sin altogether or at least from all known sin. Obviously, if the Christian has reached such a state of perfection, there is no sense anymore in talking about his being preserved or persevering.

Pentecostalism teaches this as does the pernicious idea of a "victorious Christian life." So does the "health and wealth" gospel, though from a little different viewpoint. The "health and wealth" gospel teaches that there is no need for perseverance because the Christian in this life is to be free from sickness, poverty, suffering, and trial. The "positive thinking" enthusiasts and all such who teach that the solution to life's problems is mental, psychological, or even physical, also entirely divorce perseverance from the grace of God and the struggle for holiness.

Not only is all this nonsense contrary to the experience of believers; not only does it destroy their peace when troubles and temptations do come; but it is also against the Word of God, which tells us in I Peter 4:18 that the righteous are scarcely saved, and which assures us in Romans 8:17 that only if we suffer with Christ will we be glorified with Him, and in all the passages which speak of temptations and trials of God's people. It is also flatly contradicted by the complaint of the apostle Paul in Romans 7:19: "for the good that I would (thus showing that he is even while he speaks a regenerated child of God) I do not: but the evil that I would not (thus also showing his regeneration, for no unregenerated person can will the good or hate evil as Paul does here) that I do."


G. Practical Importance

The doctrine of perseverance is a most valuable treasure of the church and of the people of God, not only because it so powerfully demonstrates the sovereignty of God in salvation, but also because it is full of practical implications.

1. Perseverance and prayer.

Because Calvinism teaches so strongly that preservation and perseverance are two sides of the same coin and that God preserves His people in such a way that they also must and do persevere and because Calvinism teaches that even our persevering is only by the grace of God, the doctrine of perseverance is another way of stressing the importance of prayer in the Christian life. That is so true that there is no hope of perseverance without prayer.

This is the teaching of the Canons in Chapter V, Article 4:

Although the weakness of the flesh cannot prevail against the power of God, who confirms and preserves true believers in a state of grace, yet converts are not always so influenced and actuated by the Spirit of God, as not in some particular instances sinfully to deviate from the guidance of divine grace, so as to be seduced by, and comply with the lusts of the flesh; they must, therefore, be constant in watching and prayer, that they be not led into temptation. When these are neglected, they are not only liable to be drawn into great and heinous sins, by Satan, the world and the flesh, but sometimes by the righteous permission of God, actually fall into these evils. This, the lamentable fall of David, Peter, and other saints described in Holy Scripture, demonstrates.

Scripture confirms this in many places, notably in Matthew 26:41; "Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak."


2 Perseverance and the preaching of the gospel.

What is true of prayer is also true of the preaching. It is the other great means God uses to preserve and keep His people. The warnings, admonitions, and encouragements of His Word are designed exactly for that purpose. This means, then, that the doctrine of perseverance also magnifies the importance of the preaching of the gospel and its necessity in the lives of believers. This, of course, shows once again, that rather than destroying lively gospel preaching, the doctrines of grace make it necessary and give power to it.

That perseverance requires gospel preaching is clear from John 10:27, 28: "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand." Only through the preaching of the gospel do we hear the voice of Jesus and that is our hope of never perishing.


3. Perseverance and holiness.

Here again the calumnies of those who hate Calvinism are shown false. The doctrines of grace do not destroy holiness and promote carelessness and worldliness as some have charged. Rather, the call to perseverance is the call to holiness, and it makes no sense even to talk about perseverance except in terms of holiness, godliness, Christian piety, and faithful obedience.

Certainly we believe that God surely and infallibly preserves His people but only in the way of their persevering in holiness, so that without holiness, no one shall see the Lord (Heb. 12:14).


4. Perseverance and peace.

It should also be evident that only the doctrine of perseverance can give Christians any peace in the world. In view of the fact that they fight against principalities and powers and spiritual wickedness and in view of the fact that they themselves are sinful and weak, they know that there is no hope of glory for them apart from the grace of God. The doctrine of perseverance assures them that God is faithful and that He will not abandon or turn away from the work He has begun in them, though they themselves may feel that that work is very small.

A good example of this is to be found in the questioning of a person who is struggling to find assurance of salvation. The very fact that they are concerned and afraid is the fruit of God's saving grace working in them, and they can and must be told that God Himself will continue that work of grace and bring it to full fruit.

Also in persecution, in suffering, and in temptation, each one of God's people through the doctrine of perseverance may rest on the faithfulness and grace of God and know that nothing can separate him from God and from eternal life. That is the thing that must be emphasized, too. Believing in the doctrine of the perseverance of saints, one believes in God Himself, in His love and mercy and grace and unchangeableness and finds in them hope and peace.


H. Relation to the Other Four Points

In conclusion let us remember that the doctrine of perseverance is inseparably connected with the rest of the Five Points of Calvinism. The elect are preserved, and they are preserved both because God has chosen them and because Christ died for them. They need that preserving grace because in themselves they are totally depraved and can do no good and certainly not the great good of finding and obtaining life everlasting. That grace which God gives them is powerful and irresistible, so that not only their own sins but also the devil and the whole wicked world cannot prevent them from being saved with an everlasting salvation.

To deny the doctrine of perseverance is to say that God's counsel can be changed - that God Himself can change. It is to say that Christ groaned and bled and died on Calvary for nothing, that God's promise can fail, and that the gifts and calling of God can be revoked, and that by weak, sinful man himself. God forbid that it should be so. Thanks be to Him for the work of grace, sovereignly begun, sovereignly brought forward, and sovereignly finished.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Questions from the Study Guide to aid in understanding and review.


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Recommended Reading

The following list of books is recommended to those who might be interested in further study of the doctrines of grace. The list is not intended to be exhaustive but nevertheless fairly comprehensive. Some of the books are currently in print, others are not. Recommendation of a book is not to be understood as endorsement of every idea set forth by its author.

Best, W.E. Free Grace Versus Free Will. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1977, 53 pages.

Boettner, Loraine. The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination. Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1978, 440 pages.

Buis, Harry. Historic Protestantism and Predestination. Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1958, 142 pages.

Calvin, John. Calvin's Calvinism: Treatise on the Eternal Predestination of God and the Secret Providence of God. Translated by Henry Cole. Grand Rapids: Reformed Free Publishing Association, (no date), 354 pages.

Clark, Gordon H. Biblical Predestination. Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1969, 155 pages.

Coles, Elisha. God's Sovereignty. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1979, 298 pages.

Coppes, Leonard H. Are Five Points Enough? The Ten Points of Calvinism. Manassas: Reformation Educational Foundation, 1980, 197 pages.

Engelsma, David J. Hyper-Calvinism and the Call of the Gospel. Grand Rapids: Reformed Free Publishing Association, 1980, 216 pages.

Girardeau, John L. Calvinism and Evangelical Arminianism Compared as to Election, Reprobation, Justification, and Related Doctrines. Harrisonburg: Sprinkle Publications, 1984, 574 pages.

Luther, Martin. The Bondage of the Will. Translated by J.I. Packer and O.R. Johnston. Westwood: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1957, 320 pages.

McNeill, John T. The History and Character of Calvinism. London: Oxford University Press, 1973, 470 pages.

Ness, Christopher. An Antidote to Arminiamism. North Hollywood: Puritan Heritage Publications, 1978, 90 pages.

Palmer, Edwin H. The Five Points of Calvinism. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1972, 109 pages.

Pink, Arthur W. The Sovereignty of God. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1963, 322 pages.

Reid, W. Stanford, ed. John Calvin: His Influence in the Western World. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1982, 415 pages.

Spencer, Duane Edward. TULIP: The Five Points of Calvinism in the Light of Scripture. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1979, 77 pages.

Sproul, R.C. Chosen by God. Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers Inc., 1986, 213 pages.

Steele, David N. and Curtis C. Thomas. The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, Documented. Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1963, 95 pages.

Thornwell, James Henly. Election and Reprobation. Jackson: Presbyterian Reformation Society, 1961, 97 pages.

Warburton, Ben A. Calvinism: Its History and Basic Principles, Its Fruits and Its Future, and Its Practical Application to Life. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1955, 249 pages.

Zanchius, Jerom. The Doctrine of Absolute Predestination. Translated by Augustus M. Toplady. Grand Rapids: Baker Bok House, 1977, 170 pages.


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Appendix I

Citations from the Creeds

Since the doctrines covered by the Five Points are expressed in a very concise way in the creeds of the church, especially in the Reformed and Presbyterian creeds, it is helpful, in trying to understand the doctrine, to make reference to some of these statements. Most of the quotations given below are from the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession, and the Canons of Dordt, the three major creeds of those churches that have the name Reformed, and from the Westminster Creed and Catechisms, the confessions of those churches that have the name Presbyterian. Please note, too, that since the Canons of Dordt are the original Five Points of Calvinism, their statements concerning the Five Points are of special significance.


A. The Sovereignty of God

1. The Heidelberg Catechism.

a. Lord's Day IX, Question and Answer 26.

What believest thou when thou sayest, "I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth?"
That the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (who of nothing made heaven and earth, with all that is in them; who likewise upholds and governs the same by his eternal counsel and providence) is for the sake of Christ his Son, my God and my Father; on whom I rely so entirely, that I have no doubt, but he will provide me with all things necessary for soul and body; and further, that he will make whatever evils he sends upon me, in this valley of tears turn out to my advantage; for he is able to do it, being Almighty God, and willing, being a faithful Father.
Gen. 1 & 2; Ps. 33:6; 115:3; Matt. 10:29; Heb. 1:3; Jn. 5:17; 1:12, 16; Rom. 8:15, 16; Gal. 4:5, 6; Eph. 1:5; I Jn. 3:1; Ps. 55:22; Matt. 6:26; Rom. 8:28; 4:21; 10:12; Matt. 7:9-11.

b. Lord's Day X, Question and Answer 27, 28.

What dost thou mean by the providence of God?
The almighty and everywhere present power of God; whereby, as it were by his hand, he upholds and governs heaven, earth, and all creatures; so that herbs and grass, rain and drought, fruitful and barren years, meat and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, yea, and all things come, not by chance, but by his fatherly hand.
Acts 17:25-28; Heb. 1:3; Jer. 5:24; Acts 14:17; Jn. 9:3; Prov. 22:2; Job 1:21; Matt. 10:29, 30; Eph. 1:11.
What advantage is it to us to know that God has created, and by his providence doth still uphold all things?
That we may be patient in adversity; thankful in prosperity; and that in all things which may hereafter befall us, we place our firm trust in our faithful God and Father, that nothing shall separate us from his love; since all creatures are so in his hand, that without his will they cannot so much as move.
Rom. 5:3; Ps. 39:10; Deut. 8:10; I Thess. 5:18; Rom. 5:3-6; 8:38, 39; Job 1:12; 2:6; Matt. 8:31; Is. 10:15.
c. Lord's Day XIX, Question and Answer 50, 51.
Why is it added, "And sitteth at the right hand of God?"
Because Christ is ascended into heaven for this end, that he might appear as the head of his church, by whom the Father governs all things.
Eph. 1:20-22; Col. 1:18; Matt. 28:18; Jn. 5:22.
What profit is this glory of Christ, our Head, unto us?
First, that by his Holy Spirit he pours out heavenly graces upon us his members; and then that by his power he defends and preserves us against all enemies.
Eph. 4:8; Ps. 2:9; Jn. 10:28.

d. Lord's Day LII, Question and Answer 128.

How dost thou conclude thy prayer?
"For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever"; that is, all these we ask of thee, because thou, being our King and Almighty, art willing and able to give us all good; and all this we pray for, that thereby not we, but thy holy Name, may be glorified for ever.
Matt. 6:13; Rom. 10:12; II Pet. 2:9; Jn. 14:13; Ps. 115:1; Phil. 4:20.

2. The Belgic Confession

a. Article XII. Of the Creation.

We believe that the Father, by the Word, that is, by his Son, hath created of nothing, the heaven, the earth, and all creatures, as it seemed good unto him, giving unto every creature its being, shape, form, and several offices to serve its Creator. That he doth also still uphold and govern them by His eternal providence, and infinite power, for the service of mankind, to the end that man may serve his God.

b. Article XIII. Of Divine Providence.

We believe that the same God after he had created all things, did not forsake them, or give them up to fortune or chance, but that he rules and governs them according to his holy will, so that nothing happens in this world without his appointment: nevertheless, God neither is the author of, nor can be charged with, the sins which are committed. For his power and goodness are so great and incomprehensible, that he orders and executes his work in the most excellent and just manner, even then, when devils and wicked men act unjustly. And, as to what he doth surpassing human understanding, we will not curiously inquire into, farther than our capacity will admit of; but with humility and reverence adore the righteous judgments of God, which are hid from us, contenting ourselves that we are disciples of Christ, to learn only those things which he has revealed to us in his Word, without transgressing these limits. This doctrine affords us unspeakable consolation, since we are taught thereby that nothing can befall us by chance, but by the direction of our most heavenly Father; who watches over us with paternal care, keeping all creatures so under his power, that not a hair of our head (for they are all numbered), nor a sparrow, can fall to the ground, without the will of our Father, in whom we do entirely trust; being persuaded, that he so restrains our enemies, that without his will and permission they cannot hurt us. And therefore we reject that damnable error of the Epicureans, who say that God regards nothing, but leaves all things to chance.

3. The Canons of Dordt.

a. I, 7.

Election is the unchangeable purpose of God, whereby, before the foundations of the world, he hath, out of mere grace, according to the sovereign good pleasure of his own will, chosen from the whole human race, which had fallen through their own fault, from their primitive state of rectitude, into sin and destruction, a certain number of persons to redemption in Christ, whom he from eternity appointed the Mediator and Head of the elect, and the foundation of salvation.
This elect number, though by nature neither better nor more deserving than others, but with them involved in one common misery, God hath decreed to give to Christ, to be saved by him, and effectually to call and draw them by his Word and Spirit, to bestow upon them true faith, justification and sanctification; and having powerfully preserved them in the fellowship of his Son, finally, to glorify them for the demonstration of his mercy, and for the praise of his glorious grace; as it is written: "According as he hath chosen us in him, before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love; having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved" (Eph. 1:4, 5, 6). And elsewhere: "Whom he did predestinate, them he also called, and whom he called, them he also justified, and whom he justified them he also glorified" (Rom. 8:30).

b. I, 11.

And as God Himself is most wise, unchangeable, omniscient, and omnipotent, so the election made by him can neither be interrupted nor changed, recalled or annulled; neither can the elect be cast away, nor their number diminished.

c. I, 15.

What particularly tends to illustrate and recommend to us the eternal and unmerited grace of election, is the express testimony of sacred Scripture, that not all, but some only are elected, while others are passed by in the eternal decrees; whom God, out of his sovereign, most just, irreprehensible and unchangeable good pleasure, hath decreed to leave in the common misery into which they have willfully plunged themselves, and not to bestow upon them saving faith and the grace of conversion; but permitting them in his just judgment to follow their own ways, at last for the declaration of his justice, to condemn and perish them forever, not only on account of their unbelief, but also for all their other sins. And this is the decree of reprobation which by no means makes God the author of sin (the very thought of which is blasphemy), but declares him to be an awful, irreprehensible, and righteous judge and avenger thereof.

d. II, 8.

For this was the sovereign, and most gracious will and purpose of God the Father, that the quickening and saving efficacy of the most precious death of his Son should extend to all the elect, for bestowing upon them alone the gift of justifying faith, thereby to bring them infallibly to salvation: that is, it was the will of God, that Christ by the blood of the cross, whereby he confirmed the new covenant, should effectually redeem out of every people, tribe, nation, and language, all those, and those only, who were from eternity chosen to salvation, and given him by the Father; that he should confer upon them faith, which together with all the other saving gifts of the Holy Spirit, he purchased for them by his death; should purge them from all sin, both original and actual, whether committed before or after believing; and having faithfully preserved them even to the end, should at last bring them free from every spot and blemish to the enjoyment of glory in his own presence forever.

4. The Westminster Confession of Faith

a. Chapter II, Article 2.

God hath all life, glory, goodness, blessedness, in and of Himself; and is alone in and unto Himself all-sufficient, not standing in need of any creatures which He hath made, nor deriving any glory from them, but only manifesting His own glory in, by, unto, and upon them: He is the alone fountain of all being, of Whom, through Whom, and to Whom, are all things; and hath most sovereign dominion over them, to do by them, for them, and upon them, whatsoever Himself pleaseth.
Jn. 5:26; Acts 7:2; Ps. 119:68; I Tim. 6:15; Rom. 9:5; Acts 17:24, 25; Job 22:2, 3; Rom. 11:36; Rev. 4:11; Dan. 4:25, 35; Heb. 4:13; Rom. 11:33, 34; Ps. 147:5; Acts 15:18; Ezek. 11:5; Ps. 145:17; Rom. 7:12; Rev. 5:12-14.

b. Chapter V, Article 1.

God, the great Creator of all things, doth uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things, from the greatest even to the least, by His most wise and holy providence, according to His infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of His own will, to the praise of the glory of His wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and mercy.
Heb. 1:3; Dan. 4:34, 35; Ps. 135:6; Acts 17:25-28; Job 38-41; Matt. 10:29-31; Prov. 15:3; Ps. 104:24; 145:17; Acts 15:18; Ps. 94:8-11; Eph. 1:11; Ps. 33:10, 11; Is. 43:14; Eph. 3:10; Rom. 9:17; Gen. 45:7; Ps. 145:7.

c. Chapter V, Article 4.

The almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, and infinite goodness of God so far manifest themselves in His providence that it extendeth itself even to the first fall, and all other sins of angels and men, and that not by a bare permission, but such as hath joined it with a most wise and powerful bounding, and otherwise ordering and governing of them, in a manifold dispensation, to His own holy ends; yet so, as the sinfulness thereof proceedeth only from the creature, and not from God, Who being most holy and righteous, neither is nor can be the author or approver of sin.
Rom. 11:32-34; II Sam. 24:1; I Chron. 21:1; I Kings 22:22, 23; I Chron. 10:4, 13, 14; II Sam. 16:10; Acts 2:23; 4:27, 28; 14:16; Ps. 76:10; II Kings 19:28; Gen. 50:20; Is. 10:6, 7, 12; James 1:13, 14, 17; I Jn. 2:16; Ps. 50:21.

5. The Westminster Larger Catechism

Question and Answer 7.

What is God?
God is a Spirit, in and of Himself infinite in being, glory, blessedness, and perfection; all-sufficient, eternal, unchangeable, incomprehensible, every where present, almighty, knowing all things, most wise, most holy, most just, most merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth.
Jn. 4:24; Ex. 3:14; Job 11:7-9; Acts 7:2; I Tim. 6:15; Matt. 5:48; Gen. 17:1; Ps. 90:2; Mal. 3:6; James 1:17; I Kings 8:27; Ps. 139:1-13; Rev. 4:8; Heb. 4:13; Ps. 147:5; Rom. 16:27; Is. 6:3; Rev. 15:44; Deut. 32:4; Ex. 34:6.

B. Total Depravity

1. The Heidelberg Catechism

a. Lord's Day II, Question and Answer 5.

Canst thou keep all these things (of the law) perfectly?
In no wise; for I am prone by nature to hate God and my neighbor.
Rom. 3:10; I Jn. 1:8; Rom. 8:7; Tit. 3:3.

b. Lord's Day III, Question and Answers 7, 8.

Whence then proceeds this depravity of human nature?
From the fall and disobedience of our first parents, Adam and Eve, in Paradise; hence our nature is become so corrupt, that we are all conceived and born in sin.
Gen. 3:6; Rom. 5:12, 18, 19; Ps. 51:5; Gen. 5:3.
Are we then so corrupt that we are wholly incapable of doing any good, and inclined to all wickedness?
Indeed we are; except we are regenerated by the Spirit of God.
Gen. 6:5; Job 14:4; 15:14, 16; Jn. 3:5; Eph. 2:5.

c. Lord's Day XXI, Question and Answer 56.

What believest thou concerning "the forgiveness of sins"?
That God, for the sake of Christ's satisfaction, will no more remember my sins, neither my corrupt nature, against which I have to struggle all my life long; but will graciously impute to me the righteousness of Christ, that I may never be condemned before the tribunal of God.
Jer. 31:34; Ps. 103:3, 4, 10, 11; Rom. 8:1-3; Jn. 3:18.

d. Lord's Day XXIII, Question and Answer 60.

How art thou righteous before God?
Only by a true faith in Jesus Christ; so that, though my conscience accuse me, that I have grossly transgressed all the commandments of God, and kept none of them, and am still inclined to all evil; notwithstanding, God, without any merit of mine, but only by mere grace, grants and imputes to me, the perfect satisfaction, righteousness and holiness of Christ; even so, as if I never had had, nor committed any sin: yea, as if I had fully accomplished all that obedience which Christ has accomplished for me; inasmuch as I embrace such benefit with a believing heart.
Rom. 3:9ff.; 7:23; 3:24; Tit. 3:5; Eph. 2:8, 9.

e. Lord's Day LI, Question and Answer 126.

Which is the fifth petition (of the Lord's Prayer)?
"And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors"; that is, be pleased for the sake of Christ's blood, not to impute to us poor sinners, our transgressions, nor that depravity which always cleaves to us; even as we feel this evidence of thy grace in us, that it is our firm resolution from the heart to forgive our neighbor.
Ps. 51:1; I Jn. 2:1, 2.

2. The Belgic Confession

a. Article XIV. Of the Creation and Fall of man, and his Incapacity to perform what is truly good.

We believe that God created man out of the dust of the earth, and made and formed him after his own image and likeness, good, righteous, and holy, capable in all things to will, agreeably to the will of God. But being in honor, he understood it not, neither knew his excellency, but willfully subjected himself to sin, and consequently to death, and the curse, giving ear to the words of the devil. For the commandment of life, which he had received, he transgressed; and by sin separated himself from God, who was his whole life, having corrupted his whole nature; whereby he made himself liable to corporal and spiritual death. And being thus become wicked, perverse, and corrupt in all his ways, he hath lost all his excellent gifts, which he had received from God, and only retained a few remains thereof, which, however, are sufficient to leave man without excuse; for all the light which is in us is changed into darkness, as the Scriptures teach us, saying: The light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not: where St. John calleth men darkness. Therefore we reject all that is taught repugnant to this concerning the free will of man, since man is but a slave to sin; and hath nothing of himself, unless it is given from heaven. For who may presume to boast, that he of himself can do any good, since Christ saith, No man can come to me, except the Father, which hath sent me, draw him? Who will glory in his own will, who understands, that to be carnally minded is enmity against God? Who can speak of his knowledge, since the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God? In short, who dare suggest any thought, since he knows that we are not sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves, but that our sufficiency is of God? And therefore what the apostle saith ought justly to be held sure and firm, that God worketh in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure. For there is no will or understanding, conformable to the divine will and understanding, but what Christ hath wrought in man; which he teaches us when he saith, Without me ye can do nothing.

b. Article XVI. Of Original Sin.

We believe that, through the disobedience of Adam, original sin is extended to all mankind; which is a corruption of the whole nature, and an hereditary disease, wherewith infants themselves are infected even in their mother's womb, and which produceth in man all sorts of sin, being in him as the root thereof; and therefore is so vile and abominable in the sight of God, that it is sufficient to condemn all mankind. Nor is it by any means abolished or done away by baptism; since sin always issues forth from this woeful source, as water from a fountain; notwithstanding it is not imputed to the children of God unto condemnation, but by his grace and mercy is forgiven them. Not that they should rest securely in sin, but that a sense of this corruption should make believers often to sigh, desiring to be delivered from the body of this death. Wherefore we reject the error of the Pelagians, who assert that sin proceeds only from imitation.

The following two articles demonstrate the relationship between the doctrine of total depravity and the other four points, i.e., since men are totally depraved, salvation must be and is all of grace in all its parts.

c. Article XVI. Of Eternal Election.

We believe that all the posterity of Adam being thus fallen into perdition and ruin, himself such as he is; that is to say, merciful and just: Merciful, since he delivers and preserves from this perdition all, whom he, in his eternal and unchangeable counsel of mere goodness, hath elected in Christ Jesus our Lord, without any respect to their works: Just in leaving others in the fall and perdition wherein they have involved themselves.

d. Article XVII. Of the Recovery of Fallen Man.

We believe that our most gracious God, in his admirable wisdom and goodness, seeing that man had thus thrown himself into temporal and eternal death, and made himself wholly miserable, was pleased to seek and comfort him when he trembling fled from his presence, promising him that he would give his son, who should be made of a woman, to bruise the head of the serpent, and would make him happy.

3. The Canons of Dordt

a. I, 1.

As all men have sinned in Adam, lie under the curse, and are deserving of eternal death, God would have done no injustice by leaving them all to perish, and delivering them over to condemnation on account of sin, according to the words of the apostle, Rom. 3:19, "that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God." And verse 23: "for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God." And Rom. 6:23: "for the wages of sin is death."

b. I, Rejection of Errors, 4.

The true doctrine concerning Election and Rejection having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those who teach: That in the election unto faith this condition is beforehand demanded, viz., that man should use the light of nature aright, be pious, humble, meek, and fit for eternal life, as if on these things election were in any way dependent. For this savors of the teaching of Pelagius, and is opposed to the doctrine of the apostle, when he writes: "Among whom we also once lived in the lust of our flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest; but God being rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace have ye been saved), and raised us up with him, and made us to sit with him in heavenly places, in Christ Jesus: that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus: for by grace have ye been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, that no man should glory" (Eph. 2:3-9).

c. III, IV, 1.

Man was originally formed after the image of God. His understanding was adorned with a true and saving knowledge of his Creator, and of spiritual things; his heart and will were upright; all his affections pure; and the whole man was holy; but revolting from God by the instigation of the devil, and abusing the freedom of his own will, he forfeited these excellent gifts; and on the contrary entailed on himself blindness of mind, horrible darkness, vanity and perverseness of judgment, became wicked, rebellious, and obdurate in heart and will, and impure in his affections.

d. III, IV, 2.

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.

e. III, IV, 3.

Therefore all men are conceived in sin, and by nature children of wrath, incapable of saving good, prone to all evil, dead in sin, and in bondage thereto, and without the regenerating grace of the Holy Spirit, they are neither able nor willing to return to God, to reform the depravity of their nature, nor to dispose themselves to reformation.

f. III, IV, 4.

There remain, however, in man since the fall, the glimmerings of natural light, whereby he retains some knowledge of God, and of natural things, and of the difference between good and evil, and discovers some regard for virtue, good order in society, and for maintaining an orderly external deportment. But so far is this light of nature from being sufficient to bring him to a saving knowledge of God, and to true conversion, that he is incapable of using it aright even in things natural and civil. Nay further, this light, such as it is, man in various ways renders wholly polluted, and holds it in unrighteousness, by doing which he becomes inexcusable before God.

It should be noted here that each section of the Canons is divided into two parts, a positive section in which each doctrine is explained and a negative section in which various errors are condemned and rejected. These sections are valuable not only because they help in sharply and clearly defining the truths under discussion but also because they contain many proof texts for these truths.

g. III, IV, Rejection of Errors, 1.

The true doctrine having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those who teach: That it cannot properly be said, that original sin in itself suffices to condemn the whole human race, or to deserve temporal and eternal punishment. For these contradict the Apostle, who declares: "Therefore as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death passed unto all men, for that all sinned" (Rom. 5:12). And: "The judgment came of one unto condemnation" (Rom. 5:16). And: "The wages of sin is death" (Rom. 6:23).

h. III, IV, Rejection of Errors, 2.

The true doctrine having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those who teach: That the spiritual gifts, or the good qualities and virtues, such as: goodness, holiness, righteousness, could not belong to the will of man when he was first created, and that these, therefore, could not have been separated therefrom in the fall. For such is contrary to the description of the image of God, which the Apostle gives in Ephesians 4:24, where he declares that it consists in righteousness and holiness, which undoubtedly belong to the will.

i. III, IV, Rejection of Errors, 3.

The true doctrine having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those who teach: That in spiritual death the spiritual gifts are not separate from the will of man, since the will in itself has never been corrupted, but only hindered through the darkness of the understanding and the irregularity of the affections; and that, these hindrances having been removed, the will can then bring into operation its native powers, that is, that the will of itself is able to will and to choose, or not to will and not to choose, all manner of good which may be presented to it. This is an innovation and an error, and tends to elevate the powers of the free will, contrary to the declaration of the Prophet: "The heart is deceitful above all things, and it is exceedingly corrupt" (Jer. 17:9); and of the Apostle: "Among whom (sons of disobedience) we also once lived in the lusts of the flesh, doing the desires of the flesh and of the mind" (Eph. 2:3).

j. III, IV, Rejection of Errors, 4.

The true doctrine having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those who teach: That the unregenerate man is not really nor utterly dead in sin, nor destitute of all powers unto spiritual good, but that he can yet hunger and thirst after righteousness and life, and offer the sacrifice of a broken spirit, which is pleasing to God. For these are contrary to the express testimony of Scripture. "Ye were dead through trespasses and sins" (Eph. 2:1, 5); and: "Every imagination of the thought of his heart are (sic) only evil continually" (Gen. 6:5; 8:21).
Moreover, to hunger and thirst after deliverance from misery, and after life, and to offer unto God the sacrifice of a broken spirit, is peculiar to the regenerate and to those that are called blessed (Ps. 51:10, 19; Matt. 5:6).

k. III, IV, Rejection of Errors, 5.

The true doctrine having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those who teach: That the corrupt and natural man can so well use the common grace (by which they understand the light of nature), or the gifts still left him after the fall, that he can gradually gain by their good use a greater, viz., the evangelical or saving grace and salvation itself. And that in this way God on his part shows himself ready to reveal Christ unto all men, since he applies to all sufficiently and efficiently the means necessary to conversion. For the experience of all ages and the Scripture do both testify that this is untrue. "He showeth his Word unto Jacob, his statutes and ordinances unto Israel. He hath not so dealt with any nation: and as for his ordinances they have not known them" (Ps. 147:19, 20). "Who in the generations gone by suffered all nations to walk in their own way" (Acts 14:16). And: "And they (Paul and his companions) having been forbidden of the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia, and when they were come over against Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia, and the Spirit suffered them not" (Acts 16:6, 7).

4. The Westminster Confession of Faith

a. Chapter VI. Of the Fall of Man, of Sin, and of the Punishment thereof.

Article 1. Our first parents, being seduced by the subtlety and temptation of Satan, sinned, in eating the forbidden fruit. This their sin, God was pleased, according to His wise and holy counsel, to permit, having purposed to order it to His own glory.
Gen. 3:8; II Cor. 9:3; Rom. 9:32.
Article 2. By this sin they fell from their original righteousness and communion, with God, and so became dead in sin, and wholly defiled in all the parts and faculties of soul and body.
Gen. 3:6-8; Eccl. 7:29; Rom. 3:23.
Article 3. They being the root of all mankind, the guilt of this sin was imputed; and the same death in sin, and corrupted nature, conveyed to all their posterity descending from them by ordinary generation.
Gen. 1:27, 28; 2:16, 17; Acts 17:26 with Rom. 5:12, 15-19; I Cor. 15:21, 22, 45, 49; Ps. 51:5; Gen. 5:3; Job 14:4; 15:14.
Article 4. From this original corruption, whereby we are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil, do proceed all actual transgressions.
Rom. 5:6; 8:7; 7:18; Col. 1:21; Gen. 6:5; 8:21; Rom. 3:10-12; James 1:14, 15; Eph. 2:2, 3; Matt. 15:19.
Art. 5. This corruption of the nature, during this life, doth remain in those that are regenerated; and though it be, through Christ, pardoned and mortified; yet both itself, and all the motions thereof, are truly and properly sin.
I Jn. 1:8, 10; Rom. 7:14, 17, 18, 23; James 3:2; Prov. 20:9; Eccl. 7:20; Rom. 7:5, 7, 8, 25; Gal. 5:17.
Article 6. Every sin, both original and actual, being a transgression of the righteous law of God, and contrary there unto, doth, in its own nature, bring guilt upon the sinner, whereby he is bound over to the wrath of God, and curse of the law, and so made subject to death, with all miseries, spiritual, temporal, and eternal.
I Jn. 3:4; Rom. 2:15; 3:9, 19; Eph. 2:8; Gal. 3:10; Rom. 7:23; Eph. 4:18; Rom. 8:20; Matt. 15:41; II Thess. 1:9.

b. Chapter IX. Of Free Will.

Article 3. Man, by his fall into a state of sin, hath wholly lost all ability of will to spiritual good accompanying salvation: so as, a natural man, being altogether averse from that good, and dead in sin, is not able by his own strength, to convert himself or to prepare himself there unto.
Rom. 5:6; 8:7; Jn. 15:5; Rom. 3:10, 12; Eph. 2:1, 5; Col. 2:13; Jn. 6:44, 65; Eph. 2:2-5; I Cor. 2:14; Tit. 3:3-5.
Article 4. When God converts a sinner, and translates him into the state of grace, He frees him from his natural bondage under sin; and by His grace alone, enables him freely to will and to do that which is spiritually good; yet so, as that by reason of his remaining corruption, he doth not perfectly, not only will that which is good, but doth also will that which is evil.
Col. 1:13; Jn. 8:34, 36; Phil. 2:13; Rom. 6:18, 22; Gal. 5:17; Rom. 7:15, 18-20, 23.
Article 5. The will of man is made perfectly and immutably free to do good alone in the state of glory only.
Eph. 4:13; Heb. 12:23; I Jn. 3:2; Jude 24.

c. Chapter XVI. Of Good Works.

Article 7. Works done by unregenerate men, although for the matter of them they may be things which God commands; and of good use both to themselves and others: yet, because they proceed not from a heart purified by faith; nor are done in a right manner, according to the Word; nor to a right end, the glory of God, they are therefore sinful, and cannot please God, or make a man meet to receive grace from God: and yet, their neglect of them is more sinful and displeasing unto God.
II Kings 10:30, 31; I Kings 21:27, 29; Phil. 1:15, 16, 18; Gen. 4:5; Heb. 11:4, 6; I Cor. 13:3; Is. 1:12; Matt. 6:2, 5, 16; Hag. 2:14; Tit. 1:15; Amos 5:21, 22; Hos. 1:4; Rom. 9:16; Tit. 3:15; Ps. 14:4; 36:3; Job 21:14, 15; Matt. 25:41-45; 23:3.

5. The Westminster Larger Catechism

a. Question and Answer 25.

Wherein consisteth the sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell?
The sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell, consisteth in the guilt of Adam's first sin, the want of that righteousness wherein he was created, and the corruption of his nature, whereby he is utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite unto all that is spiritually good, and wholly inclined to all evil, and that continually; which is commonly called Original Sin, and from which do proceed all actual transgressions.
Rom. 5:12, 19; 3:10-19; Eph. 2:1-3; Rom. 5:6; 8:7, 8; Gen. 6:5; James 1:14, 15; Matt. 15:19.

b. Question and Answer 27.

What misery did the fall bring upon mankind?
The fall brought upon man the loss of communion with God, His displeasure and curse; so as we are by nature children of wrath, bond slaves to Satan, and justly liable to the punishments in this world, and that which is to come.
Gen. 3:8, 10, 24; Eph. 2:2, 3; II Tim. 2:26; Gen. 2:17; Lam. 3:39; Matt. 15:41, 46; Jude 7.

c. Question and Answer 149.

Is any man able perfectly to keep the commandments of God?
No man is able, either of himself, or by any grace received in this life, perfectly to keep the commandments of God; but doth daily break them in thought, word, and deed.
Jam. 3:2; Jn. 15:5; Rom. 8:8; Eccl. 7:20; I Jn. 1:8, 10; Gal. 5:17; Rom. 7:18, 19; Gen. 6:5; 8:21; Rom. 3:9-19; Jam. 3:2-13.

C. Unconditional Election

1. Heidelberg Catechism

Lord's Day XXI, Question and Answer 54.

What believest thou concerning the holy, catholic church of Christ?
That the Son of God from the beginning to the end of the world, gathers, defends, and preserves to himself by his Spirit and word, out of the whole human race, a church chosen to everlasting life, agreeing in true faith; and that I am and forever shall remain, a living member thereof.
Jn. 10:11; Gen. 26:4; Rom. 9:24; Eph. 1:10; Jn. 10:16; Is. 59:21; Deut. 10:14, 15; Acts 13:48; I Cor. 1:8, 9; Rom. 8:35ff.

2. The Belgic Confession

Article XVI, Of Eternal Election.

We believe that all the posterity of Adam being thus fallen into perdition and ruin, by the sin of our first parents, God did then manifest himself such as he is; that is to say, merciful and just: Merciful, since he delivers and preserves from this perdition all, whom he, in his eternal and unchangeable counsel of mere goodness, hath elected in Christ Jesus our Lord, without any respect to their works: Just in leaving others in the fall and perdition wherein they have involved themselves.

3. The Canons of Dordt

a. I, 6.

That some receive the gift of faith from God, and others do not receive it proceeds from God's eternal decree, "For known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world" (Acts 15:18). "Who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will" (Eph. 1:11). According to which decree, he graciously softens the hearts of the elect, however obstinate, and inclines them to believe, while he leaves the non-elect in his just judgment to their own wickedness and obduracy. And herein is displayed the profound, the merciful, and at the same time the righteous discrimination between men, equally involved in ruin; or that decree of election and reprobation, revealed in the Word of God, which though men of perverse, impure, and unstable minds wrest to their own destruction, yet to holy and pious souls affords unspeakable consolation.

b. I, 7.

Election is the unchangeable purpose of God, whereby, before the foundations of the world, he hath, out of mere grace, according to the sovereign good pleasure of his own will, chosen from the whole human race, which had fallen through their own fault, from their primitive state of rectitude, into sin and destruction, a certain number of persons to redemption in Christ, whom he from eternity appointed the Mediator and Head of the elect, and the foundation of salvation.
This elect number, though by nature neither better nor more deserving than others, but with them involved in one common misery, God hath decreed to give to Christ, to be saved by him, and effectually to call and draw them by his Word and Spirit, to bestow upon them true faith, justification and sanctification; and having powerfully preserved them in the fellowship of his Son, finally, to glorify them for the demonstration of his mercy, and for the praise of his glorious grace; as it is written: "According as he hath chosen us in him, before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love; having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved" (Eph. 1:4-6). And elsewhere: "Whom he did predestinate, them he also called, and whom he called, them he also justified, and whom he justified them he also glorified" (Rom. 8:30).

c. I, 9.

This election was not founded upon foreseen faith, and the obedience of faith, holiness, or any other good quality or disposition in man, as the pre-requisite, cause or condition on which it depended; but men are chosen to faith and to obedience of faith, holiness, etc., therefore election is the fountain of every saving good; from which proceed faith, holiness, and the other gifts of salvation, and finally eternal life itself, as its fruits and effects, according to that of the apostle: "He hath chosen us (not because we were) but that we should be holy, and without blame, before him in love" (Eph. 1:4).

d. I, 10.

The good pleasure of God is the sole cause of this gracious election; which doth not consist herein, that out of all possible qualities and actions of men God has chosen some as a condition of salvation; but that he was pleased out of the common mass of sinners to adopt some certain persons as a peculiar people to himself, as it is written, "For the children being not yet born neither having done any good or evil," etc., it was said (namely to Rebecca): "the elder shall serve the younger; as it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated" (Rom. 9:11-13). "And as many as were ordained to eternal life believed" (Acts 13:48).

e. I. 11.

And as God himself is most wise, unchangeable, omniscient and omnipotent, so the election made by him can neither be interrupted nor changed, recalled or annulled; neither can the elect be cast away, nor their number diminished.

f. I, 15.

What particularly tends to illustrate and recommend to us the eternal and unmerited grace of election, is the express testimony of sacred Scripture, that not all, but some only are elected, while others are passed by in the eternal decrees; whom God, out of His sovereign, most just, irreprehensible and unchangeable good pleasure, hath decreed to leave in the common misery into which they have willfully plunged themselves, and not to bestow upon them saving faith and the grace of conversion; but permitting them in his just judgment to follow their own ways, at last for the declaration of his justice, to condemn and perish them forever, not only on account of their unbelief, but also for all their other sins. And this is the decree of reprobation which by no means makes God the author of sin (the very thought of which is blasphemy), but declares him to be an awful, irreprehensible, and righteous judge and avenger thereof.

g. I, Rejection of Errors, 1.

The true doctrine concerning Election and Rejection having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those who teach: That the will of God to save those who would believe and would persevere in faith, is the whole and entire decree of election unto salvation, and that nothing else concerning this decree has been revealed in God's Word.
For these deceive the simple and plainly contradict the Scriptures which declare that God will not only save those who believe, but that he has from eternity chosen certain particular persons to whom above others he in time will grant both faith in Christ and perseverance; as it is written: "I manifested thy name unto the men whom thou gavest me out of the world" (John 17:6). "And as many as were ordained to eternal life believed" (Acts 13:48). And: "Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blemish before him in love" (Eph. 1:4).

h. I, Rejection of Errors, 2.

The true doctrine concerning Election and Rejection having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those who teach: That there are various kinds of election of God unto eternal life: the one general and indefinite, the other particular and definite; and that the latter in turn is either incomplete, revocable, non-decisive, and conditional, or complete, irrevocable, decisive, and absolute. Likewise: that there is one election unto faith, and another unto salvation, so that election can be unto justifying faith without being a decisive election unto salvation. For this is a fancy of men's minds, invented regardless of the Scriptures, whereby the doctrine of election is corrupted, and this golden chain of our salvation is broken: "And whom he foreordained, them he also called; and whom he called, them he also justified; and whom he justified, them he also glorified" (Rom. 8:30).

i. I, Rejection of Errors, 3.

The true doctrine concerning Election and Rejection having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those who teach: That the good pleasure and purpose of God, of which Scripture makes mention in the doctrine of election, does not consist in this, that God chose certain persons rather than others, but in this that he chose out of all possible conditions (among which are also the works of the law), or out of the whole order of things, the act of faith which from its very nature is undeserving, as well as its complete obedience, as a condition of salvation, and that he would graciously consider this in itself as a complete obedience and count it worthy of the reward of eternal life. For by this injurious error the pleasure of God and the merits of Christ are made of none effect, and men are drawn away by useless questions from the truth of gracious justification and from the simplicity of Scripture, and this declaration of the Apostle is charged as untrue: "Who saved us, and called us by an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before times eternal" (II Tim. 1:9).

j. I, Rejection of Errors, 4.

The true doctrine concerning Election and Rejection having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those who teach: That in the election unto faith this condition is beforehand demanded, viz., that man should use the light of nature aright, be pious, humble, meek, and fit for eternal life, as if on these things election were in any way dependent. For this savors of the teaching of Pelagius, and is opposed to the doctrine of the apostle, when he writes: "Among whom we also once lived in the lust of our flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest; but God being rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace have ye been saved), and raised us up with him, and made us to sit with him in heavenly places, in Christ Jesus: that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus; for by grace have ye been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, that no man should glory" (Eph. 2:3-9).

k. I, Rejection of Errors, 5.

The true doctrine concerning Election and Rejection having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those who teach: That the incomplete and non-decisive election of particular persons to salvation occurred because of a foreseen faith, conversion, holiness, godliness, which either began or continued for some time; but that the complete and decisive election occurred because of foreseen perseverance in faith, conversion, holiness, and godliness; and that this is the gracious and evangelical worthiness, for the sake of which he who is chosen, is more worthy than he who is not chosen; and that therefore faith, holiness, godliness and perseverance are not fruits of the unchangeable election unto glory, but are conditions, which, being required beforehand, were foreseen as being met by those who will be fully elected, and are causes without which the unchangeable election to glory does not occur.
This is repugnant to the entire Scripture, which constantly inculcates this and similar declarations: Election is not of works but of him that calleth (Rom. 9:11). "And as many as were ordained to eternal life believed" (Acts 13:48). "He chose us in him before the foundations of the world, that we should be holy" (Eph. 1:4). "Ye did not choose me, but I chose you" (John 15:16). "But if it be of grace, it is no more of works" (Rom. 11:6). "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son" (I John 4:10).

l. I, Rejection of Errors, 6.

The true doctrine concerning Election and Rejection having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those who teach: That not every election unto salvation is unchangeable, but that some of the elect, any decree of God notwithstanding, can yet perish and do indeed perish. By which gross error they make God to be changeable, and destroy the comfort which the godly obtain out of the firmness of their election, and contradict the Holy Scripture, which teaches, that the elect cannot be lead astray (Matt. 24:24). That Christ does not lose those whom the Father gave him (John 6:39). And that God hath also glorified those whom he foreordained, called, and justified (Rom. 8:30).

The next four articles from the Canons show the relationship between unconditional election and limited atonement, that is, that Christ died for the elect.

m. II, 8.

For this was the sovereign counsel, and most gracious will and purpose of God the Father, that the quickening and saving efficacy of the most precious death of his Son should extend to all the elect, for bestowing on them alone the gift of justifying faith, thereby to bring them infallibly to salvation: that is, it was the will of God, that Christ, by the blood of the cross, whereby he confirmed the new covenant, should effectually redeem out of every people, tribe, nation, and language, all those, and those only, who were from eternity chosen to salvation, and given him by the Father; that he should confer upon them faith, which together with all the other saving gifts of the Holy Spirit, he purchased for them by his death; should purge them from all sin, both original and actual, whether committed before or after believing; and having faithfully preserved them to the end, should at last bring them free from every spot or blemish to the enjoyment of glory in his own presence forever.

n. II, 9.

This purpose proceeding from everlasting love towards the elect, has from the beginning of the world to this day been powerfully accomplished, and will henceforward still continue to be accomplished, notwithstanding all the ineffectual opposition of the gates of hell, so that the elect in due time may be gathered together into one, and that there may never be wanting a church composed of believers, the foundation of which is laid in the blood of Christ, which may steadfastly love, and faithfully serve him as their Savior, who as a bridegroom for his bride, laid down his life for them upon the cross, and which may celebrate his praises here and through all eternity.

o. II, Rejection of Errors, 1.

The true doctrine having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those who teach: That God the Father had ordained his Son to the death of the cross without a certain and definite decree to save any, so that the necessity, profitableness, and worth of what Christ merited by his death might have existed, and might remain in all its parts complete, perfect and intact, even if the merited redemption had never in fact been applied to any person. For this doctrine tends to the despising of the wisdom of the Father and of the merits of Jesus Christ, and is contrary to the Scripture. For thus saith our Savior: "I lay down my life for the sheep, and I know them" (John 10:15, 27). And the prophet Isaiah saith concerning the Savior: "When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of Jehovah shall prosper in his hand" (Is. 53:10). Finally this contradicts the article of faith according to which we believe the catholic Christian church (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord's Day XXI, 54).

p. II, Rejection of Errors, 7.

The true doctrine having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those who teach: That Christ neither could die, nor did die for those whom God loved in the highest degree and elected to eternal life, and did not die for these, since these do not need the death of Christ. For they contradict the Apostle, who declares: "Christ loved me, and gave himself for me" (Gal. 2:20). Likewise: "who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth; who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died" (Rom. 8:33, 34), viz., for them; and the Savior who says: "I lay down my life for the sheep" (John 10:15). And: "This is my commandment, that ye love one another, even as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:12, 13).

The last four articles from the Canons quoted here show how unconditional election is fulfilled and carried out by irresistible grace and the preservation of saints.

q. III, IV, 10.

But that others who are called by the gospel, obey the call, and are converted is not to be ascribed to the proper exercise of free will, whereby one distinguishes himself above others, equally furnished with grace sufficient for faith and conversions, as the proud heresy of Pelagius maintains; but it must be wholly ascribed to God, who as he has chosen his own in Christ, so he confers upon them faith and repentance, rescues them from the power of darkness, and translates them into the kingdom of his own Son, that they may show forth the praises of him who hath called them out of darkness into his marvelous light; and may glory not in themselves, but in the Lord according to the testimony of the apostles in various places.

r. V, 6.

But God, who is rich in mercy, according to his unchangeable purpose of election, does not wholly withdraw his Holy Spirit from his own people, even in their melancholy falls; nor suffers them to proceed so far as to lose the grace of adoption, and forfeit the state of justification, or to commit the sin unto death; nor does he permit them to be wholly deserted, and to plunge themselves into everlasting destruction.

s. V, 8.

Thus, it is not in consequence of their own merits, or strength, but of God's free mercy, that they do not wholly fall from faith and grace, nor continue and perish finally in their backslidings; which, with respect to themselves, is not only possible, but would undoubtedly happen; but with respect to God, it is utterly impossible, since his counsel cannot be changed, nor his promise fail, neither can the call according to his purpose be revoked, nor the merit, intercession and preservation of Christ be rendered ineffectual, nor the sealing of the Holy Spirit be obliterated.

t. V, Rejection of Errors, 1.

The true doctrine having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those who teach: That the perseverance of the true believers is not a fruit of election, or a gift of God, gained by the death of Christ, but a condition of the new covenant, which (as they declare) man before his decisive election and justification must fulfill through his own free will. For the Holy Scripture testifies that this follows out of election, and is given to the elect in virtue of the death, the resurrection and intercession of Christ: "But the elect obtained it and the rest were hardened" (Rom. 11:7). Likewise: "He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him freely give us all things? Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth; who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea, rather, that was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?" (Rom. 8:32-35)

4. The Westminster Confession of Faith

a. Chapter III. Of God's Eternal Decree.

Article 6. As God hath appointed the elect unto glory, so hath He, by the eternal and most free purpose of His will, foreordained all the means there unto. Wherefore, they who are elected, being fallen in Adam, are redeemed in Christ, are effectually called unto faith in Christ by His Spirit working in due season, are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by His power, through faith, unto salvation. Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified and saved, but the elect only.
Jn. 17:9; Rom. 8:28ff., Jn. 6:64, 65; 10:26; 8:47; I Jn 2:19.

b. Chapter XI. Of Justification.

Article 4. God did, from all eternity, decree to justify all the elect, and Christ did, in the fullness of time, die for their sins, and rise again for their justification: nevertheless, they are not justified, until the Holy Spirit doth, in due time, actually apply Christ unto them.
Gal. 3:8; I Pet. 1:2, 19, 20; Rom. 8:30.

5. The Westminster Larger Catechism

a. Question and Answer 12.

What are the decrees of God?
God's decrees are the wise, free, and holy acts of the counsel of His will, whereby, from all eternity, He hath, for His own glory, unchangeably foreordained whatsoever comes to pass in time, especially concerning angels and men.
Eph. 1:11; Rom. 11:33; 9:14, 15, 18; Eph. 1:4, 11; Rom. 9:22, 23; Ps. 33:11.

b. Question and Answer 13.

What hath God especially decreed concerning angels and men?
God, by an eternal and immutable decree, out of His mere love, for the praise of His glorious grace, to be manifested in due time, hath elected some angels to glory; and in Christ hath chosen some men to eternal life, and the means thereof: and also, according to His sovereign power, and the unsearchable counsel of His own will (whereby He extendeth or withholdeth favour as He pleaseth), hath passed by and foreordained the rest to dishonour and wrath, to be for their sin inflicted, to the praise of the glory of His justice.
I Tim. 5:21; Eph. 1:4-6; II Thess. 2:13, 14; Rom. 9:17, 18, 21, 22; Matt. 1:25, 26; II Tim. 2:20; Jude 4; I Pet. 2:8.

c. Question and Answer 14.

How doth God execute His decrees?
God executeth His decrees in the works of creation and providence, according to His infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of His own will.
Eph. 1:11.

D. Limited Atonement

1. Heidelberg Catechism

a. Lord's Day XI, Question and Answer 29.

Why is the Son of God called Jesus, that is a Savior?
Because he saveth us, and delivereth us from our sins; and likewise, because we ought not to seek, neither can find salvation in any other.
Matt. 1:21; Acts 4:12.

In the preceding quotation we have an excellent example of many articles in all the creeds which use the words "we" and "us" to describe those who benefit from Christ's death - words that are by their very nature exclusive and not inclusive.

Though the next article does not answer directly the question "For whom did Christ die?" it nonetheless supports the doctrine of limited atonement by insisting that those for whom Christ died are completely saved in Him and that salvation is not just made possible for them. In fact, the Belgic Confession in Article XXII, below, calls the idea that Christ only makes salvation possible a gross blasphemy.

b. Lord's Day XI, Question and Answer 30.

Do such then believe in Jesus the only Savior, who seek their salvation and welfare of saints, or themselves, or anywhere else?
They do not; for though they boast of him in words, yet in deeds they deny Jesus the only deliverer and Savior; for one of these two things must be true, that either Jesus is not a complete Savior; or that they, who by a true faith receive this Savior, must find all things in him necessary to their salvation.
I Cor. 1:13, 31; Gal. 5:4; Col. 2:20; Is. 9:6, 7; Col. 1:19, 20.

c. Lord's Day XXI, Question and Answer 54.

What believest thou concerning the "holy catholic church" of Christ?
That the Son of God from the beginning to the end of the world, gathers, defends, and preserves to himself by his Spirit and Word, out of the whole human race, a church chosen to everlasting life, agreeing in true faith; and that I am and forever shall remain, a living member thereof.
Jn. 10:11; Gen. 26:4; Rom. 9:24; Eph. 1:10, Jn. 10:16; Is. 59:21; Deut. 10:14, 15; Acts 13:48; I Cor. 1:8, 9; Rom. 8:35ff.

2. The Belgic Confession

Article XXII. Of Faith in Jesus Christ.

We believe that, to attain the true knowledge of this great mystery, the Holy Ghost kindleth in our hearts an upright faith, which embraces Jesus Christ, with all his merits, appropriates him, and seeks nothing more besides. For it must needs follow, either that all things, which are requisite to our salvation, are not in Jesus Christ, or if all things are in him, that then those who possess Jesus Christ through faith, have complete salvation in him. Therefore, for any to assert, that Christ is not sufficient, but that something more is required besides him, would be too gross a blasphemy: for hence it would follow that Christ was but half a Savior.

3. The Canons of Dordt

a. I, 7.

Election is the unchangeable purpose of God, whereby, before the foundations of the world, he hath, out of mere grace, according to the sovereign good pleasure of his own will, chosen from the whole human race, which had fallen through their own fault, from their primitive state of rectitude, into sin and destruction, a certain number of persons to redemption in Christ, whom he from eternity appointed the Mediator and Head of the elect, and the foundation of salvation.
This elect number, though by nature neither better nor more deserving than others, but with them involved in one common misery, God hath decreed to give to Christ, to be saved by him, and effectually to call and draw them by his Word and Spirit, to bestow upon them true faith, justification and sanctification; and having powerfully preserved them in the fellowship of his Son, finally, to glorify them for the demonstration of his mercy, and for the praise of his glorious grace; as it is written: "According as he hath chosen us in him, before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love; having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved" (Eph. 1:4-6). And elsewhere: "Whom he did predestinate, them he also called, and whom he called, them he also justified, and whom he justified them he also glorified" (Rom. 8:30).

b. II, 7, 8.

But as many as truly believe, and are delivered and saved from sin and destruction through the death of Christ, are indebted for this benefit solely to the grace of God, given them in Christ from everlasting, and not to any merit of their own.
For this was the sovereign counsel, and most gracious will and purpose of God the Father, that the quickening and saving efficacy of the most precious death of his Son should extend to all the elect, for bestowing on them alone the gift of justifying faith, thereby to bring them infallibly to salvation: that is, it was the will of God, that Christ, by the blood of the cross, whereby he confirmed the new covenant, should effectually redeem out of every people, tribe, nation, and language, all those, and those only, who were from eternity chosen to salvation, and given him by the Father; that he should confer upon them faith, which together with all the other saving gifts of the Holy Spirit, he purchased for them by his death; should purge them from all sin, both original and actual, whether committed before or after believing; and having faithfully preserved them to the end, should at last bring them free from every spot or blemish to the enjoyment of glory in his own presence forever.

c. II, Rejection of Errors, 1.

The true doctrine having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those who teach: That God the Father had ordained his Son to the death of the cross without a certain and definite decree to save any, so that the necessity, profitableness, and worth of what Christ merited by his death might have existed, and might remain in all its parts complete, perfect, and intact, even if the merited redemption had never in fact been applied to any person. For this doctrine tends to the despising of the wisdom of the Father and of the merits of Jesus Christ, and is contrary to the Scripture. For thus saith our Savior: "I lay down my life for the sheep, and I know them" (John 10:15, 27). And the prophet Isaiah saith concerning the Savior: "When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of Jehovah shall prosper in his hand" (Is. 53:10). Finally this contradicts the article of faith according to which we believe the catholic Christian church (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord's Day XXI, 54).

d. II, Rejection of Errors, 5.

The true doctrine having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those who teach: That all men have been accepted unto the state of reconciliation and unto the grace of the covenant, so that no one is worthy of condemnation on account of original sin, and that no one shall be condemned because of it, but that all are free from the guilt of original sin. For this opinion is repugnant to Scripture which teaches that we are by nature children of wrath.

e. II, Rejection of Errors, 6.

The true doctrine having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those: Who use the difference between meriting and appropriating, to the end that they may instill into the minds of the imprudent and inexperienced this teaching that God, as far as he is concerned, has been minded of applying to all equally the benefits gained by the death of Christ; but that while some obtain the pardon of sin and eternal life, and others do not, this difference depends on their own free will, which joins itself to the grace that is offered without exception, and that it is not dependent on the special gift of mercy, which powerfully works in them, that they rather than others should appropriate unto themselves this grace. For these, while they feign that they present this distinction, in a sound sense, seek to instill into the people the destructive poison of the Pelagian errors.

4. The Westminster Confession of Faith

a. Chapter III. Of God's Eternal Decree.

Article 6. As God hath appointed the elect unto glory, so hath He, by the eternal and most free purpose of His will, foreordained all the means thereunto. Wherefore, they who are elected, being fallen in Adam, are redeemed in Christ, are effectually called unto faith in Christ by His Spirit working in due season, are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by His power, through faith, unto salvation. Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified and saved, but the elect only.
Jn. 17:9; Rom. 8:28ff.; Jn. 6:64, 65; 10:26; 8:47; I Jn. 2:19.

b. Chapter VIII. Of Christ the Mediator.

Article 5. The Lord Jesus, by His perfect obedience, and sacrifice of Himself, which He through the eternal Spirit, once offered up unto God, hath fully satisfied the justice of His Father; and purchased, not only reconciliation, but an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of heaven, for all those whom the Father hath given unto Him.
Rom. 5:19; Heb. 9:14, 16; 10:14; Eph. 5:2; Rom. 3:25, 26; Dan. 9:24, 26; Col. 1:19, 20; Eph. 1:11, 14; Jn. 17:2; Heb. 9:12, 15.
Article 8. To all those for whom Christ hath purchased redemption, He doth certainly and effectually apply and communicate the same; making intercession for them, and revealing unto them, in and by the Word, the mysteries of salvation; effectually persuading them by His Spirit to believe and obey, and governing their hearts by His Word and Spirit; overcoming all their enemies by His almighty power and wisdom, in such manner, and ways, as are most consonant to His wonderful and unsearchable dispensation.
Jn. 6:37, 39; 10:15, 16; I Jn. 2:1, 2; Rom. 8:34; Jn. 15:13, 15; Eph. 1:7-9; Jn. 17:6; 14:16; Heb. 12:2; II Cor. 4:13; Rom. 8:9, 14; 15:18, 19; Jn. 17:17.

c. Chapter XI. Of Justification.

Article 3. Christ, by His obedience and death, did fully discharge the debt of all those that are thus justified, and did make a proper, real, and full satisfaction to His Father's justice in their behalf. Yet, in as much as He was given by the Father for them; and His obedience and satisfaction accepted in their stead; and both, freely, not for anything in them; their justification is only of free grace; that both the exact justice and rich grace of God might be glorified in the justification of sinners.
Rom. 5:8-10, 19; I Tim. 2:5, 6; Heb. 10:10, 14; Dan. 9:24, 26; Is. 53:4-6, 10-12; Rom. 8:32; II Cor. 5:21; Matt. 3:17; Eph. 5:2; Rom. 3:24; Eph. 1:7; Rom. 3:26; Eph. 2:7.
Article 4. God did, from all eternity, decree to justify all the elect, and Christ did, in the fullness of time, die for their sins, and rise again for their justification: nevertheless, they are not justified, until the Holy Spirit doth, in due time, actually apply Christ unto them.
Gal. 3:8; I Pet. 1:2, 19, 20; Rom. 8:30.

5. The Westminster Larger Catechism

a. Question and Answer 38.

Why was it requisite that the Mediator should be God?
It was requisite that the Mediator should be God, that He might sustain and keep the human nature from sinking under the infinite wrath of God, and the power of death; give worth and efficacy to His sufferings, obedience, and intercession; and to satisfy God's justice, procure His favour, purchase a peculiar people, give His Spirit to them, conquer all their enemies, and bring them to everlasting salvation.
Acts 2:24, 25; Rom. 1:4; 4:25; Heb. 9:14; Acts 20:28; Heb. 7:25-28; Rom. 3:24-26; Eph. 1:6; Matt. 3:17; Tit. 2:13, 14; Gal. 4:6; Luke 1:68, 69, 71, 74; Heb. 5:8, 9; 9:11-15.

b. Question and Answer 41.

Why was our Mediator called Jesus?
Our Mediator was called Jesus, because He saveth His people from their sins.
Matt. 1:21.
c. Question and Answer 44.
How doth Christ execute the office of a priest?
Christ executeth the office of a priest, in His once offering Himself a sacrifice without spot to God, to be reconciliation for the sins of His people; and in making continual intercession for them.
Heb. 9:14, 28;2:17; 7:25.

d. Question and Answer 46.

What was the estate of Christ's humiliation?
The estate of Christ's humiliation was that low condition, wherein He for our sakes, emptying Himself of His glory, took upon Him the form of a servant, in His conception and birth, life, death, and after His death, until His resurrection.
Phil. 2:6-8; Luke 1:31; II Cor. 8:9; Acts 2:24.

e. Question and Answer 59.

Who are made partakers of redemption through Christ?
Redemption is certainly applied, and effectually communicated, to all those for whom Christ hath purchased it; who are in time by the Holy Ghost enabled to believe in Christ according to the gospel.
Eph. 1:13, 14; Jn. 6:37, 39; 10:15, 16; Eph. 2:8; II Cor. 4:13.

E. Irresistible Grace

1. The Heidelberg Catechism

a. Lord's Day I, Question and Answer 1.

What is thy only comfort in life and death?
That I am not my own but belong unto my faithful Savior Jesus Christ; who, with his precious blood, hath fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, and therefore, by his Holy Spirit, he also assures me of eternal life, and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto him.
I Cor. 6:19, 20; Rom. 14:7-9; I Cor. 3:23; I Pet. 1:18, 19; I Jn. 1:7; 3:8; Heb. 2:14, 15; Jn. 6:39; 10:28, 29; Lk. 21:18; Matt. 10:30; Rom. 8:28; II Cor. 1:22; 5:5; Rom. 8:14; 7:22.

b. Lord's Day III, Question and Answer 8.

Are we then so corrupt that we are wholly incapable of doing any good, and inclined to all wickedness?
Indeed we are; except we are regenerated by the Spirit of God.
Gen. 6:5; Job 14:4;15:14, 16; Jn. 3:5; Eph. 2:5.

c. Lord's Day XX, Question and Answer 53.

What believest thou concerning the Holy Ghost?
First, that he is true and co-eternal God with the Father and the Son; secondly, that he is also given me, to make me by a true faith, partaker of Christ and all his benefits, that he may comfort me and abide with me forever.
Gen. 1:2; Is. 48:16; I Cor. 3:16; Matt. 28:19; II Cor. 1:22; Gal. 3:14; I Pet. 1:2; Acts 9:31; Jn. 14:16; I Pet. 4:14.

d. Lord's Day XXXII, Question and Answer 86.

Since then we are delivered from our misery, merely of grace, through Christ, without any merit of ours, why must we still do good works?
Because Christ, having redeemed and delivered us by his blood, also renews us by his Holy Spirit, after his own image; that so we may testify, by the whole of our conduct, our gratitude to God for his blessings, and that he may be praised by us; also, that everyone may be assured in himself of his faith, by the fruits thereof; and that by our godly conversation, others may be gained to Christ.
I Cor. 6:19, 20; Rom. 6:13;12:1, 2; I Pet. 2:5, 9, 10; Matt. 5:16; I Pet. 2:12; II Pet. 1:10; Gal. 5:6, 24; I Pet. 3:1, 2; Matt. 5:16; Rom. 14:19.

2. The Belgic Confession

a. Article XIV. Of the Creation and Fall of man, and his Incapacity to perform what is truly good.

Therefore we reject all that is taught repugnant to this, concerning the free will of man, since man is but a slave to sin, and has nothing of himself, unless it is given from heaven. For who may presume to boast, that he of himself can do any good, since Christ saith, No man can come to me except the Father, which hath sent me draw him? Who will glory in his own will, who understands, that to be carnally minded is enmity against God? Who can speak of his knowledge, since the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God? In short, who dare suggest any thought, since he knows that we are not sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves, but that our sufficiency is of God? And therefore what the apostle saith ought justly to be held sure and firm, that God worketh in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure. For there is no will or understanding, conformable to the divine will and understanding, but what Christ hath wrought in man; which he teaches us when he saith, Without me ye can do nothing.

b. Article XXII. Of Faith in Jesus Christ.

We believe that, to attain the true knowledge of this great mystery, the Holy Ghost kindleth in our hearts an upright faith, which embraces Jesus Christ, with all his merits, appropriates him, and seeks nothing more besides. For it must needs follow, either that all things, which are requisite to our salvation, are not in Jesus Christ, or if all things are in him, that then those who possess Jesus Christ through faith, have complete salvation in him. Therefore, for any to assert, that Christ is not sufficient, but that something more is required besides him, would be too gross a blasphemy: for hence it would follow that Christ was but half a Savior.

c. Article XXIV. Of man's Sanctification and Good Works.

We believe that this true faith being wrought in man by the hearing of the Word of God, and the operation of the Holy Ghost, doth regenerate and make him a new man, causing him to live a new life, and freeing him from the bondage of sin. Therefore it is so far from being true, that this justifying faith makes men remiss in a pious and holy life, that on the contrary without it they would never do anything out of love to God, but only out of self-love or fear of damnation. Therefore it is impossible that this holy faith can be unfruitful in man: for we do not speak of a vain faith, but of such a faith, which is called in Scripture, a faith which worketh by love, which God has commanded in his Word. Which works, as they proceed from the good root of faith, are good and acceptable in the sight of God, forasmuch as they are all sanctified by his grace: howbeit they are of no account towards our justification. For it is by faith in Christ that we are justified, even before we do good works; otherwise they could not be good works, any more than the fruit of a tree can be good, before the tree itself is good. Therefore we do good works, but not to merit by them (for what can we merit?), nay, we are beholden to God for the good works we do, and not he to us, for it is he that worketh in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Let us therefore attend to what is written: when ye shall have done all these things which are commanded you, say, we are unprofitable servants; we have done that which was our duty to do. In the meantime, we do not deny that God rewards our good works, but it is through his grace that he crowns his gifts. Moreover, though we do good works, we do not found our salvation upon them; for we do no work but what is polluted by our flesh, and also punishable; and although we could perform such works, still the remembrance of one sin is sufficient to make God reject them. Thus then we would always be in doubt, tossed to and fro without any certainty, and our poor consciences continually vexed, if they relied not on the merits of the suffering and death of our Savior.

3. The Canons of Dordt

Here are three articles from the first chapter of the Canons that show the relationship between irresistible grace and unconditional election, for an election which is truly unconditional demands a grace so powerful.

a. I, 6.

That some receive the gift of faith from God, and others do not receive it proceeds from God's eternal decree, "For known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world" (Acts 15:18). "Who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will" (Eph. 1:11). According to which decree, he graciously softens the hearts of the elect, however obstinate, and inclines them to believe, while he leaves the non-elect in his just judgment to their own wickedness and obduracy. And herein is displayed the profound, the merciful, and at the same time the righteous discrimination between men, equally involved in ruin; or that decree of election and reprobation, revealed in the Word of God, which though men of perverse, impure, and unstable minds wrest to their own destruction, yet to holy and pious souls affords unspeakable consolation.

b. I, 7.

Election is the unchangeable purpose of God, whereby, before the foundations of the world, he hath, out of mere grace, according to the sovereign good pleasure of his own will, chosen from the whole human race, which had fallen through their own fault, from their primitive state of rectitude, into sin and destruction, a certain number of persons to redemption in Christ, whom he from eternity appointed the Mediator and Head of the elect, and the foundation of salvation.
This elect number, though by nature neither better nor more deserving than others, but with them involved in one common misery, God hath decreed to give to Christ, to be saved by him, and effectually to call and draw them by his Word and Spirit, to bestow upon them true faith, justification and sanctification; and having powerfully preserved them in the fellowship of his Son, finally, to glorify them for the demonstration of his mercy, and for the praise of his glorious grace; as it is written: "According as he hath chosen us in him, before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love; having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved" (Eph. 1:4-6). And elsewhere: "Whom he did predestinate, them he also called, and whom he called, them he also justified, and whom he justified them he also glorified" (Rom. 8:30).

c. I, 8.

There are not various decrees of election, but one and the same decree respecting all those, who shall be saved, both under the Old and New Testament: since the Scripture declares the good pleasure, purpose and counsel of the divine will to be one, according to which he hath chosen us from eternity, both to grace and glory, to salvation and the way of salvation, which he hath ordained that we should walk therein.

The following four articles are taken from the second chapter of the Canons and show how the atonement of Christ, limited to the elect, is made powerful and infallible by the irresistible grace of God.

d. II, 7.

But as many as truly believe, and are delivered and saved from sin and destruction through the death of Christ, are indebted for this benefit solely to the grace of God, given them in Christ from everlasting, and not to any merit of their own.

e. II. 8.

For this was the sovereign counsel, and most gracious will and purpose of God the Father, that the quickening and saving efficacy of the most precious death of his Son should extend to all the elect, for bestowing on them alone the gift of justifying faith, thereby to bring them infallibly to salvation: that is, it was the will of God, that Christ, by the blood of the cross, whereby he confirmed the new covenant, should effectually redeem out of every people, tribe, nation, and language, all those, and those only, who were from eternity chosen to salvation, and given him by the Father; that he should confer upon them faith, which together with all the other saving gifts of the Holy Spirit, he purchased for them by his death; should purge them from all sin, both original and actual, whether committed before or after believing; and having faithfully preserved them to the end, should at last bring them free from every spot or blemish to the enjoyment of glory in his own presence forever.

f. II, 9.

This purpose proceeding from everlasting love towards the elect, has from the beginning of the world to this day been powerfully accomplished, and will henceforward still continue to be accomplished, notwithstanding all the ineffectual opposition of the gates of hell, so that the elect in due time may be gathered together into one, and that there may never be wanting a church composed of believers, the foundation of which is laid in the blood of Christ, which may steadfastly love, and faithfully serve him as their Savior, who as a bridegroom for his bride, laid down his life for them upon the cross, and which may celebrate his praises here and through all eternity.

g. II, Rejection of Errors, 6.

The true doctrine having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those: Who use the difference between meriting and appropriating, to the end that they may instill into the minds of the imprudent and inexperienced this teaching that God, as far as he is concerned, has been minded of applying to all equally the benefits gained by the death of Christ; but that while some obtain the pardon of sin and eternal life, and others do not, this difference depends on their own free will, which joins itself to the grace that is offered without exception, and that it is not dependent on the special gift of mercy, which powerfully works in them, that they rather than others should appropriate unto themselves this grace. For these, while they feign that they present this distinction, in a sound sense, seek to instill into the people the destructive poison of the Pelagian errors.

h. III, IV, 10.

But that others who are called by the gospel, obey the call, and are converted is not to be ascribed to the proper exercise of free will, whereby one distinguishes himself above others, equally furnished with grace sufficient for faith and conversions, as the proud heresy of Pelagius maintains; but it must be wholly ascribed to God, who as he has chosen his own in Christ, so he confers upon them faith and repentance, rescues them from the power of darkness, and translates them into the kingdom of his own Son, that they may show forth the praises of him who hath called them out of darkness into his marvelous light; and may glory not in themselves, but in the Lord according to the testimony of the apostles in various places.

i. III, IV, 11.

But when God accomplishes his good pleasure in the elect, or works in them true conversion, he not only causes the gospel to be externally preached to them, and powerfully illuminates their minds by his Holy Spirit, that they may rightly discern the things of the Spirit of God; but by the efficacy of the same regenerating Spirit, pervades the inmost recesses of the man; he opens the closed, and softens the hardened heart, and circumcises that which was uncircumcised, infuses new qualities into the will, which though heretofore dead, he quickens; from being evil, disobedient, and refractory, he renders it good, obedient, and pliable; actuates and strengthens it, that like a good tree, it may bring forth fruits of good actions.

j. III, IV, 12.

And this is the regeneration so highly celebrated in Scripture, and denominated a new creation; a resurrection from the dead, a making alive, which God works in us without our aid. But this is in no wise effected merely by the external preaching of the gospel, by moral suasion, or such a mode of operation, that after God has performed his part, it still remains in the power of man to be regenerated or not, to be converted or to continue unconverted; but it is evidently a supernatural work, most powerful, and at the same time most delightful, astonishing, mysterious, and ineffable; not inferior in efficacy to creation, or the resurrection from the dead, as the Scripture inspired by the author of this work declares; so that all in whose heart God works in this marvelous manner, are certainly, infallibly, and effectually regenerated, and do actually believe. Whereupon the will thus renewed, is not only actuated and influenced by God, but in consequence of this influence, becomes itself active. Wherefore also, man is himself rightly said to believe and repent, by virtue of that grace received.

k. III, IV, 13.

The manner of this operation cannot be fully comprehended by believers in this life. Notwithstanding which, they rest satisfied with knowing and experiencing, that by this grace of God they are enabled to believe with the heart, and love their Savior.

l. III, IV, 14.

Faith is therefore to be considered as the gift of God, not on account of its being offered by God to man, to be accepted or rejected by him at his pleasure; but because it is in reality conferred, breathed, and infused into him; or even because God bestows the power or ability to believe, and then expects that man should by the exercise of his own free will, consent to the terms of salvation, and actually believe in Christ; but because he who works in man both to will and to do and indeed all things in all, produces both the will to believe, and the act of believing also.

m. III, IV, 16.

But as man by the fall did not cease to be a creature, endowed with understanding and will, nor did sins which pervaded the whole race of mankind, deprive him of the human nature, but brought upon him depravity and spiritual death; so also this grace of regeneration does not treat men as senseless stocks and blocks, nor takes away their will and its properties, neither does violence thereto; but spiritually quickens, heals, corrects, and at the same time sweetly and powerfully bends it; that where carnal rebellion and resistance formerly prevailed, a ready and sincere spiritual obedience begins to reign; in which the true and spiritual restoration and freedom of our will consist. Wherefore unless the admirable author of every good work wrought in us, man could have no hope of recovering from his fall by his own free will, by the abuse of which, in a state of innocence, he plunged himself into ruin.

n. III, IV, 17.

As the almighty operation of God, whereby he prolongs and supports this our natural life, does not exclude, but requires the use of means, by which God of his infinite mercy and goodness hath chosen to exert his influence, so also the before mentioned supernatural operation of God, by which we are regenerated, in no wise excludes or subverts the use of the gospel, which the most wise God has ordained to be the seed of regeneration, and food of the soul. Wherefore, as the apostles, and teachers who succeeded them, piously instructed the people concerning this grace of God, to his glory, and the abasement of all pride, and in the meantime, however, neglected not to keep them by the sacred precepts of the gospel in the exercise of the Word, sacraments and discipline; even so to this day, be it far from either instructors or instructed to presume to tempt God in the church by separating what he of his good pleasure hath most intimately joined together. For grace is conferred by means or admonitions; and the more readily we perform our duty, the more eminent usually is this blessing of God working in us, and the more directly is his work advanced; to whom alone all the glory both of means, and of their saving fruit and efficacy is forever due. Amen.

o. III, IV, Rejection of Errors, 6.

The true doctrine having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those who teach: That in the true conversion of man no new qualities, powers or gifts can be infused by God into the will, and that therefore faith through which we are first converted, and because of which we are called believers, is not a quality or gift infused by God, but only an act of man, and that it cannot be said to be a gift, except in respect of the power to attain to this faith. For thereby they contradict the Holy Scriptures, which declare that God infuses new qualities of faith, of obedience, and of the consciousness of his love into our hearts: "I will put my law in their inward parts, and in their hearts will I write it" (Jer. 31:33). And: "I will pour water upon him that is thirsty and streams upon the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon thy seed" (Is. 44:3). And: "The love of God hath been shed abroad in our hearts through the Holy Spirit which hath been given us" (Rom. 5:5). This is also repugnant to the continuous practice of the church, which prays by the mouth of the Prophet thus: "Turn thou me, and I shall be turned" (Jer. 31:18).

p. III, IV, Rejection of Errors, 7.

The true doctrine having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those who teach: That the grace whereby we are converted to God is only a gentle advising, or (as others explain it), that this is the noblest manner of working, which consists in advising, is most in harmony with man's nature; and that there is no reason why this advising grace alone should not be sufficient to make the natural man spiritual, indeed, that God does not produce the consent of the will except through this manner of advising; and that the power of the divine working, whereby it surpasses the working of Satan, consists in this, that God promises eternal, while Satan promises only temporal good. But this is altogether Pelagian and contrary to the whole Scripture which, besides this, teaches yet another and far more powerful and divine manner of the Holy Spirit's working in the conversion of man, as in Ezekiel: "A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh" (Ezek. 36:26).

q. III, IV, Rejection of Errors, 8.

The true doctrine having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those who teach: That God in the regeneration of man does not use such powers of his omnipotence as potently and infallibly bend man's will to faith and conversion; but that all the works of grace having been accomplished, which God employs to convert man, man may yet so resist God and the Holy Spirit, when God intends man's regeneration and wills to regenerate him, and indeed man often does so resist, that he prevents entirely his regeneration, and that it therefore remains in man's power to be regenerated or not. For this is nothing less than a denial of all the efficiency of God's grace in our conversion, and the subjecting of the working of the Almighty God to the will of man, which is contrary to the Apostles, who teach: "That God fulfills every desire of goodness and every work of faith with power" (II Thess. 1:11). And: "That his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain to life and godliness" (II Pet. 1:3).

r. III, IV, Rejection of Errors, 9.

The true doctrine having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those who teach: That grace and free will are partial causes, which together work the beginning of conversion, and, that grace, in order of working, does not precede the working of the will; that is, God does not efficiently help the will of man unto conversion until the will of man moves and determines to do this. For the ancient church has long ago condemned this doctrine of the Pelagians according to the words of the Apostle: "So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that hath mercy" (Rom. 9:16). Likewise: "For who maketh thee to differ? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive?" (I Cor. 4:7) And: "For it is God who worketh in you both to will and to work, for his good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13).

4. The Westminster Confession of Faith

a. Chapter III. Of God's Eternal Decree.

Article 6. As God hath appointed the elect unto glory, so hath He, by the eternal and most free purpose of His will, foreordained all the means thereunto. Wherefore, they who are elected, being fallen in Adam, are redeemed in Christ, are effectually called unto faith in Christ by His Spirit working in due season, are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by his power, through faith, unto salvation. Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified and saved, but the elect only.
Jn. 17:9; Rom. 8:28ff.; Jn 6:64, 65; 10:26; 8:47; I Jn. 2:19.

b. Chapter VIII. Of Christ the Mediator.

Article 8. To all those for whom Christ hath purchased redemption, He doth certainly and effectually apply and communicate the same; making intercession for them, and revealing unto them, in and by the Word, the mysteries of salvation; effectually persuading them by His Spirit to believe and obey, and governing their hearts by His Word and Spirit; overcoming all their enemies by His almighty power and wisdom, in such manner, and ways, as are most consonant to His wonderful and unsearchable dispensation.
Jn. 6:37, 39;10:15, 16; I Jn. 2:1, 2; Rom. 8:34; Jn. 15:13, 15; Eph. 1:7-9; Jn. 17:6; 14:16; Heb. 12:2; II Cor. 4:13; Rom. 8:9, 14; 15:18, 19; Jn. 17:17.

c. Chapter IX. Of Free Will.

Article 3. Man, by his fall into a state of sin, hath wholly lost all ability of will to spiritual good accompanying salvation: so as, a natural man, being altogether averse from that good, and dead in sin, is not able by his own strength, to convert himself or to prepare himself thereunto.
Rom. 5:6; 8:7; Jn. 15:5; Rom. 3:10, 12; Eph. 2:1, 5; Col. 2:13; Jn. 6:44, 65; Eph. 2:2-5; I Cor. 2:14; Tit. 3:3-5.
Article 4. When God converts a sinner, and translates him into the state of grace, He frees him from his natural bondage under sin; and by his grace alone, enables him freely to will and to do that which is spiritually good; yet so, as that by reason of his remaining corruption, he doth not perfectly, nor only will that which is good, but doth also will that which is evil.
Col. 1:13; Jn. 8:34, 36; Phil. 2:13; Rom. 6:18, 22; Gal. 5:17; Rom. 7:15, 18-20, 23.
Article 5. The will of man is made perfectly and immutably free to do good alone in the state of glory only.
Eph. 4:13; Heb. 12:23; I Jn. 3:2; Jude 24.

5. The Westminster Larger Catechism

Question and Answer 59.

Who are made partakers of redemption through Christ?
Redemption is certainly applied, and effectually communicated, to all those for whom Christ hath purchased it; who are in time by the Holy Ghost enabled to believe in Christ according to the gospel.
Eph. 1:13, 14; Jn. 6:37, 39; 10:15, 16; Eph. 2:8; II Cor. 4:13.

F. The Perseverance of Saints

1. The Heidelberg Catechism

a. Lord's Day I, Question and Answer 1.

What is thy only comfort in life and death?
That I am not my own but belong unto my faithful Savior Jesus Christ; who, with his precious blood, hath fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, and therefore, by his Holy Spirit, he also assures me of eternal life, and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto him.
I Cor. 6:19, 20; Rom. 14:7-9; I Cor. 3:23; I Pet. 1:18, 19; I Jn. 1:7; 3:8; Heb. 2:14, 15; Jn. 6:39; 10:28, 29; Luke 21:18; Matt. 10:30; Rom. 8:28; II Cor. 1:22; 5:5; Rom. 8:14; 7:22.

b. Lord's Day XII, Question and Answer 31.

Why is he called Christ, that is anointed?
Because he is ordained of God the Father, and anointed with the Holy Ghost, to be our chief Prophet and Teacher, who has fully revealed to us the secret counsel and will of God concerning our redemption; and to be our only High Priest, who by the one sacrifice of his body, has redeemed us, and makes continual intercession with the Father for us; and also to be our eternal King, who governs us by his word and Spirit, and who defends and preserves us in (the enjoyment of) that salvation, he has purchased for us.
Heb. 1:9; Deut. 18:18; Acts 3:22; Jn. 1:18; 15:15; Matt. 11:27; Ps. 110:4; Heb. 7:21; 10:14; Rom. 8:34; Ps. 2:6; Luke 1:33; Matt. 28:18; Jn. 10:28.

c. Lord's Day XVIII, Question and Answer 49.

Of what advantage is Christ's ascension into heaven?
First, that he is our advocate in the presence of his Father in heaven; secondly, that we have our flesh in heaven as a sure pledge that he, as head, will also take up to himself, us, his members; thirdly, that he sends us his Spirit as an earnest, by whose power we "seek the things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God, and not things on earth."
Heb. 9:24; I Jn. 2:2; Rom. 8:34; Jn. 14:2; Eph. 2:6; Jn. 14:16; II Cor. 1:22; 5:5; Col. 3:1; Phil. 3:20.

d. Lord's Day XIX, Question and Answer 51.

What profit is this glory (of his exaltation) of Christ, our head, to us?
First that by his Holy Spirit he pours out heavenly graces upon us his members; and then that by his power he defends and preserves us against all enemies.
Eph. 4:8; Ps. 2:9; Jn. 10:28.

e. Lord's Day XXI, Question and Answer 54.

What believest thou concerning the "holy catholic church" of Christ?
That the Son of God from the beginning to the end of the world, gathers, defends, and preserves to himself by his Spirit and word, out of the whole human race, a church chosen to everlasting life, agreeing in true faith; and that I am and forever shall remain, a living member thereof.
Jn. 10:11; Gen. 26:4; Rom. 9:24; Eph. 1:10; Jn. 10:16; Is. 59:21; Deut. 10:14, 15; Acts 13:48; I Cor. 1:8, 9; Rom. 8:35ff.

f. Lord's Day XXII, Question and Answer 58.

What comfort takest thou from the article of "life everlasting?"
That since I now feel in my heart the beginning of eternal joy, after this life, I shall inherit perfect salvation, which "eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man" to conceive, and that, to praise God therein for ever.
II Cor. 5:2, 3, 6; Rom. 14:17; Ps. 10:11; I Cor. 2:9.

g. Lord's Day LII, Question and Answer 127.

Which is the sixth petition (of the Lord's Prayer)?
"And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil"; that is, since we are so weak in ourselves, that we cannot stand a moment; and besides this, since our mortal enemies, the devil, the world, and our own flesh, cease not to assault us, do thou therefore preserve and strengthen us by the power of thy Holy Spirit, that we may not be overcome in this spiritual warfare, but constantly and strenuously may resist our foes, till at last we obtain a complete victory.
Matt. 6:13; Rom. 8:26; Ps. 103:14; I Pet. 5:8; Eph. 6:12; Jn. 15:19; Rom. 7:23; Gal. 5:17; Mat. 26:41; Mark 13:33; I Thess. 3:13; 5:23.

2. The Belgic Confession

Article XXVII. Of the Catholic Christian Church.

We believe and profess, one catholic or universal Church, which is an holy congregation, of true Christian believers, all expecting their salvation in Jesus Christ, being washed by his blood, sanctified and sealed by the Holy Ghost. This Church hath been from the beginning of the world, and will be to the end thereof; which is evident from this, that Christ is an eternal King, which, without subjects, cannot be. And this holy Church is preserved or supported by God, against the rage of the whole world; though she sometimes (for a while) appears very small, and in the eyes of men, to be reduced to nothing: as during the perilous reign of Ahab, the Lord reserved unto him seven thousand men, who had not bowed their knees to Baal. Furthermore, this holy Church is not confined, bound, or limited to a certain place or to certain persons, but is spread and dispersed over the whole world; and yet is joined and united with heart and will, by the same power of faith, in one and the same spirit.

3. The Canons of Dordt

a. I, 7.

This elect number, though by nature neither better nor more deserving than others, but with them involved in one common misery, God hath decreed to give to Christ, to be saved by him, and effectually to call and draw them to his communion by his Word and Spirit, to bestow upon them true faith, justification and sanctification; and having powerfully preserved them in the fellowship of his Son, finally to glorify them for the demonstration of his mercy, and for the praise of his glorious grace; as it is written: "According as he hath chosen us in him, before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy, and without blame before him in love; having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved" (Eph. 1:4-6). And elsewhere: "Whom he did predestinate, them he also called, and whom he called, them he also justified, and whom he justified them he also glorified" (Rom. 8:30).

b. I, 11.

And as God himself is most wise, unchangeable, omniscient, and omnipotent, so the election made by him can neither be interrupted nor changed, recalled or annulled; neither can the elect be cast away, nor their number diminished.

c. I, Rejection of Errors, 6.

The true doctrine concerning Election and Rejection having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those who teach: That not every election unto salvation is unchangeable, but that some of the elect, any decree of God notwithstanding, can yet perish and do indeed perish. By which gross error they make God to be changeable, and destroy the comfort which the godly obtain out of the firmness of their election, and contradict the Holy Scripture, which teaches, that the elect can not be led astray (Matt. 24:24); that Christ does not lose those whom the Father gave him (Jn. 6:39); and that God hath also glorified those whom he foreordained, called, and justified (Rom. 8:30).

These articles from the Canons are especially valuable because they demonstrate the connection between unconditional election and the perseverance of saints, just as the next article shows the connection between perseverance and limited atonement.

d. II, 8.

For this was the sovereign counsel, and most gracious will and purpose of God the Father, that the quickening and saving efficacy of the death of his Son should extend to all the elect, for bestowing upon them alone the gift of justifying faith, thereby to bring them infallibly to salvation: that is, it was the will of God, that Christ by the blood of the cross, whereby he confirmed the new covenant, should effectually redeem out of every people, tribe, nation, and language, all those, and those only, who were from eternity chosen to salvation, and given to him by the Father; that he should confer upon them faith, which together with all the other saving gifts of the Holy Spirit, he purchased for them by his death; should purge them from all sin, both original and actual, whether committed before or after believing; and having faithfully preserved them even to the end, should at last bring them free from every spot and blemish to the enjoyment of glory in his own presence forever.

The remaining articles are from Chapter V, the chapter on perseverance.

e. V, 3.

By reason of these remains of indwelling sin, and the temptations of sin and of the world, those who are converted could not persevere in a state of grace, if left to their own strength. But God is faithful, who having conferred grace, mercifully confirms, and powerfully preserves them therein, even to the end.

f. V, 6.

But God, who is rich in mercy, according to his unchangeable purpose of election, does not wholly withdraw the Holy Spirit from his own people, even in their melancholy falls; nor suffers them to proceed so far as to lose the grace of adoption, and forfeit the state of justification, or to commit the sin unto death; nor does he permit them to be totally deserted, and to plunge themselves into everlasting destruction.

g. V, 7.

For in the first place, in these falls he preserves in them the incorruptible seed of regeneration from perishing, or being totally lost; and again, by his Word and Spirit, certainly and effectually renews them to repentance, to a sincere and godly sorrow for their sins, that they may seek and obtain remission in the blood of the Mediator, may again experience the favor of a reconciled God, through faith adore his mercies, and henceforward more diligently work out their own salvation with fear and trembling.

h. V, 8.

Thus, it is not in consequence of their own merits, or strength, but of God's free mercy, that they do not totally fall from faith and grace, nor continue and perish finally in their backslidings; which with respect to themselves is not only possible, but would undoubtedly happen; but with respect to God, it is utterly impossible, since his counsel cannot be changed, nor his promise fail, neither can the call according to his purpose be revoked, nor the merit, intercession, and preservation of Christ, be rendered ineffectual, nor the sealing of the Holy Spirit be frustrated or obliterated.

i. V, Rejection of Errors, 3.

The true doctrine having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those who teach: That the true believers and regenerate not only can fall from justifying faith and likewise from grace and salvation wholly and to the end, but indeed often do fall from this and are lost forever. For this conception makes powerless the grace, justification, regeneration, and continued keeping by Christ, contrary to the expressed words of the Apostle Paul: "That while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. Much more then, being justified by his blood, shall we be saved from the wrath of God through him" (Rom. 5:8, 9). And contrary to the Apostle John: "Whosoever is begotten of God doeth no sin, because his seed abideth in him; and he cannot sin, because he is begotten of God" (I Jn. 3:9). And also contrary to the words of Jesus Christ: "I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand. My Father who hath 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).

4. The Westminster Confession of Faith

Chapter XVII. Of the Perseverance of Saints.

Article 1. They whom God hath accepted in His Beloved, effectually called, and sanctified by His Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved.
Phil. 1:6; II Pet. 1:10; Jn. 10:28, 29; I Jn. 3:9; I Pet. 1:5, 9.
Article 2. This perseverance of the saints depends not upon their own free will, but upon the immutability of the decree of election, flowing from the free and unchangeable love of God the Father; upon the efficacy of the merit and intercession of Jesus Christ, the abiding of the Spirit, and of the seed of God within them, and the nature of the covenant of grace: from all which ariseth also the certainty and infallibility thereof.
II Tim. 2:18, 19; Jer. 31:3; Heb. 10:10, 14; 13:20, 21; 9:12, 13-15; Rom. 8:33-39; Jn. 17:11, 24; Luke 22:32; Heb. 7:25; Jn. 14:16, 17; I Jn. 2:27; 3:9; Jer. 32:40; Jn. 10:28; II Thess. 3:3; I Jn. 2:19.

5 The Westminster Larger Catechism

a. Question and Answer 79.

May not true believers, by reason of their imperfections, and the many temptations and sins they are overtaken with, fall away from a state of grace?
True believers, by reason of the unchangeable love of God, and His decree and covenant to give them perseverance, their inseparable union with Christ, His continual intercession for them, and the Spirit and seed of God abiding in them, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace, but are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.
Jer. 31:3; II Tim. 2:19; Heb. 13:20, 21; II Sam. 23:5; I Cor. 1:8, 9; Heb. 7:25; Luke 22:32; I Jn. 3:9; 2:27; Jer. 32:40; Jn. 10:28; I Pet. 1:5.

b. Question and Answer 80.

Can true believers be infallibly assured that they are in a state of grace, and that they shall persevere therein unto salvation?
Such as truly believe in Christ, and endeavor to walk in all good conscience before him, may, without extraordinary revelation, by faith grounded upon the truth of God's promises, and by the Spirit enabling them to discern in themselves those graces to which the promises of life are made, and bearing witness with their spirits that they are the children of God, be infallibly assured that they are in the estate of grace, and shall persevere therein unto salvation.
I Jn. 2:3; I Cor. 2;12; I Jn. 3:14, 18, 19, 21, 24; 4:13, 16; Heb. 6:11, 12; Rom. 8:16; I Jn. 5:13.

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Last modified, 18-Jan, 1999


Study Guide for Saved by Grace

Copyright 1995. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reprinted in any form without permission from the publisher, except in the case of a brief quotation used in connection with a critical article or review. For information, address:

The Reformed Free Publishing Association

Box 2006

Grand Rapids, Michigan 49501

Library of Congress: 95-68230
ISBN 0-916206-55-6

Introduction

This study guide is intended to be a companion volume to Saved by Grace - a Study of the Five Points of Calvinism. It can be used as a personal study guide by those who work through the material presented in the book on their own. It can also be used in a group Bible study. In this case, answers to the various questions in the study guide can be compared and discussed for the mutual profit of the members of the group. In either case, use of the study guide is intended to enrich understanding of and appreciation for the doctrines of grace, which are commonly referred to as the Five Points of Calvinism.

The purpose of the study guide is not only to reinforce the material presented in Saved by Grace. But the purpose is to go beyond what is written in the book by way of one's own further study and personal application of the Five Points of Calvinism. The study guide is also designed to be a tool for personal, spiritual growth so that these grand truths will not only be understood and confessed but lived. Then our sovereign God, Whose glory is held forth in these doctrines, will be praised.

Soli Deo Gloria!

The Authors


Chapter 1

The Sovereignty of God

Study Questions:

1. What does it mean that "the central truth proclaimed by Calvinism ... is the absolute sovereignty of God"?


2. What do you understand by the sovereignty of God?


3. What is meant when it is said that God is absolutely sovereign?


4. What is included in the sovereignty of God?


5. Does the sovereignty of God make God the author of sin? Explain.



6. Does the sovereignty of God rule out the responsibility of the sinner? Explain.


7. How does communism deny the truth of the sovereignty of God?


8. How does the teaching of evolution deny the truth of the sovereignty of God?


9. How does all Arminianism and free willism deny the sovereignty of God?


10. How is the sovereignty of God important for the right worship of God?


11. Explain how the glory of God is at stake in the truth of His sovereignty.


12. How does belief in the sovereignty of God affect one's view of history?


13. How does the comfort of God's people depend on the sovereignty of God?


14. How is the truth of the sovereignty of God related to the Five Points of Calvinism?


Scripture References:

1. Prove God's sovereignty in general.

2. Prove God's sovereignty over the brute creation.

3. Prove God's sovereignty over His rational, moral creature, man.

4. Prove God's sovereignty in salvation.

5. Prove God's sovereignty over the evils (adversities) of earthly life.

6. Prove God's sovereignty over sin and the sinner.



Questions for Reflection:

1. What difference does belief of God's sovereignty make in your life?

2. Recall a time in your life when God sovereignly brought trouble upon you that in the end proved to be for your good.


3. What relation is there between the sovereignty of God and prayer?


4. Can a person be saved who does not believe the sovereignty of God?

5. How does belief in the sovereignty of God differ from fatalism?


Memory Work:

1. Psalm 115:3: But our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased.

2. Daniel 4:34, 35: And at the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the most High, and I praised and honored him that liveth for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation: And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?

3. Matthew 10:29, 30: Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.

4. Luke 22:22: And truly the Son of man goeth, as it was determined: but woe unto that man by whom he is betrayed!


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Chapter 2

Total Depravity


Study Questions:

1. What do you understand by man's depravity?


2. Why do we speak of man being totally depraved?



3. What is "original sin"?


4. How does Pelagianism deny the truth of total depravity?



5. How does Semi-Pelagianism deny the truth of total depravity?


6. How does Arminianism deny the truth of total depravity?


7. How does the teaching of common grace deny the truth of total depravity?


8. How does the free offer of the gospel deny the truth of total depravity?


9. How does the notion that man has a free will contradict the truth of total depravity?


10. Is there any validity to the distinction between absolute depravity and total depravity?


11. What is the relation between total depravity and repentance?


12. What is the relation between total depravity and the preaching of the gospel?


13. Of what practical significance is the truth of total depravity for parents in the bringing up of their children?

14. Explain what is meant by the "antithesis."


15. How is the truth of total depravity related to the other of the Five Points of Calvinism?




Scripture References:

1. Prove the doctrine of total depravity.

2. Prove that all men are depraved.

3. Prove that man's depravity extends to his nature.

4. Prove the inability of man to save himself.

5. Prove the truth of original sin.


Questions for Reflection:

1. If all men are totally depraved, why do not all men commit every sin?


2. Adam was the head and representative of us all, so that his sin became our sin. Can you think of examples in everyday life where this principle of headship holds true?


3. Does God still today punish sin with sin? Explain.


4. What considerations might enter into a man's doing deeds that are only outwardly "good"?


5. React to the statement: "You can't legislate morality."




Memory Work:

1. Psalm 14:1-3: The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good. The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.

2. Psalm 51:5: Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.

3. Romans 8:7, 8: Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.

4. Ephesians 2:1: And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins.


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Chapter 3

Unconditional Election


Study Questions:

1. Why can predestination be called "the heart of the gospel"?


2. What is predestination? What is election?


3. What are the outstanding characteristics of election?


4. What is meant by "double" predestination? What is reprobation?


5. Does the teaching of predestination contradict the truth that God is a God of love? Explain.



6. Does the teaching of predestination contradict the righteousness of God? Explain.


7. Does the teaching of predestination deny man's responsibility and lead to determinism? Explain.


8. How is the teaching of free will a denial of predestination?


9. How is the teaching of common grace a denial of predestination?


10. How is the teaching of the free offer of the gospel a denial of predestination?


11. What connection is there between predestination and the antithesis?


12. How does the truth of predestination provide a motivation to the church in the preaching of the gospel?


13. How does the truth of predestination inspire humility in the believer?

14. How does the truth of predestination relate to the glory of God?


15. How is the truth of unconditional election related to the other of the Five Points of Calvinism?



Scripture References:

1. Prove the doctrine of election.

2. Prove that election is definite and personal.

3. Prove that election is an eternal decree.

4. Prove that election is unto salvation.

5. Prove that election is gracious and unconditional.

6. Prove that the basis for election is in Jesus Christ.

7. Prove the doctrine of reprobation.


Questions for Reflection:

1. Hypothetically, God could have chosen to save all men, or He could have chosen to save none. He did neither; He chose to save some. Why would this be His will, rather than one of the other alternatives?




2. How can a person be sure that he is an elect child of God?


3. Is it possible for an elect child of God to lose the assurance of his election? If so, how?


4. Is it possible for a reprobate person to be convinced mistakenly that he is an elect child of God?

5. Ought we to be concerned that the preaching of election and reprobation might frighten genuine believers and plant seeds of doubt in their minds?


Memory Work:

1. John 15:16: Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain; that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.

2. Romans 9:11-13: (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.

3. Ephesians 1:3-5: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.

4. Jude 4: For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.


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Chapter 4

Limited Atonement


Study Questions:

1. What is meant by the atonement?


2. Why do we speak of the atonement as limited?


3. Did Christ's death on the cross merely make salvation possible? Explain.


4. In light of the truth of limited atonement, explain I Timothy 2:4-6.



5. In light of the truth of limited atonement, explain John 3:16.


6. How does the teaching of universalism deny the truth of limited atonement?


7. How does the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church contradict the truth of limited atonement?


8. How does the teaching of Arminianism deny the truth of limited atonement?


9. What does modernism teach about the death of Christ?


10. How does the teaching of the free offer of the gospel stand at odds with the truth of limited atonement?


11. How does the truth of limited atonement impact the preaching of the gospel?


12. How does the truth of limited atonement affect the church's mission work?


13. How does the truth of limited atonement relate to the assurance of salvation?


14. How is the glory of God at stake in the truth of limited atonement?


15. How is the truth of limited atonement related to the other of the Five Points of Calvinism?



Scripture References:

1. Prove limited atonement.

2. Prove that Christ laid down His life for certain particular persons.

3. Prove the efficacy of the death of Christ.

4. Prove that Christ's death was satisfaction of God's justice.

5. Quote a Bible text that speaks of Christ's death as:

a. Propitiation.

b. Reconciliation.

c. Redemption.


Questions for Reflection:

1. How does the justice of God relate to the truth of limited atonement?


2. What does it mean that Christ died for the "ungodly," Romans 5:6?


3. Why was it necessary that Christ's death should be by crucifixion?


4. Christ's death was vicarious or substitutionary. What does this mean? Of what importance is this truth?


5. What was the greatest suffering endured by Christ on the cross?


6. Sometimes the distinction is made between Christ's active obedience and His passive obedience. What is the distinction? What is your evaluation of this distinction?



Memory Work:

1. Isaiah 53:11: He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many, for he shall bear their iniquities.

2. Matthew 1:21: And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins.

3. John 10:11: I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.

4. Acts 20:28: Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.


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Chapter 5

Irresistible Grace


Study Questions:

1. What does it mean that we are saved by grace?



2. What is meant by irresistible grace?



3. Does irresistible grace imply that man is saved contrary to his will? Explain.



4. What is the fruit of God's grace in the sinner?



5. Does the truth of irresistible grace preclude the use of means, particularly the means of the preaching of the gospel? Explain.




6. How can you explain those passages of Scripture (like Matthew 23:37 and Acts 7:51) which seem to teach that it is possible for the sinner to resist God's grace?




7. How is the teaching of free will a denial of irresistible grace?


8. How does the teaching of common grace lead to a denial of irresistible grace?


9. How is the teaching of the free offer of the gospel an implicit denial of irresistible grace?


10. What is the importance of maintaining that grace is irresistible as far as the truth that salvation is by grace alone is concerned?


11. What is the importance of the doctrine of irresistible grace in relation to the believer's assurance?


12. What impact has the doctrine of irresistible grace on the truth of conversion?


13. How is the truth of irresistible grace related to the other of the Five Points of Calvinism?




Scripture References:

1. Prove that salvation is by grace alone.

2. Prove that salvation is not on account of man's works.


3. Prove that even our repenting and believing are due to the grace of God.

4. Prove that the grace of salvation is irresistible.

5. Quote a passage of Scripture that speaks of salvation as re-birth, re-creation, or resurrection. Explain how this passage proves irresistible grace.


Questions for Reflection:

1. What impact has the truth of irresistible grace on the Reformed view of the preaching of the gospel? Is the methodology of Reformed preaching different from the methodology employed in Arminian preaching because of the doctrine of irresistible grace?


2. Is it possible for a man to be brought to salvation by "natural light" apart from the grace of God?



3. What are the fruits of irresistible grace for which a Christian ought to look in his life and by which he may be assured that he is the object of God's grace? Are these fruits of grace present in your life?


4. Is it a matter of "grace" that a man outwardly conforms himself to the law of God? What considerations might enter in here?


5. Is the truth of irresistible grace experienced by the believer? Explain.



Memory Work:

1. Romans 8:29, 30: For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.

2. Romans 9:16: So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy.

3. Ephesians 2:8-10: For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

4. John 3:3: Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.


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Chapter 6

The Perseverance of the Saints


Study Questions:

1. What is meant by the perseverance of the saints?



2. Why do we speak of those whom God preserves as saints?



3. What is the relation between the perseverance of the saints and God's preservation of them?



4. Do the saints fall? Do the saints fall away? Explain.


5. In light of the perseverance of the saints, explain Hebrews 6:4-6.



6. Does the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints lead to careless living? Explain.



7. How does Roman Catholicism deny the truth of the perseverance of the saints?


8. How does Arminianism deny the truth of the perseverance of the saints?


9. How does the teaching of free will contradict the truth of the perseverance of the saints?


10. How does Antinomianism deny the truth of the perseverance of the saints?


11. How does perfectionism overthrow the truth of the perseverance of the saints?


12. What is the relation between the perseverance of the saints and prayer?

13. What is the relation between the perseverance of the saints and the preaching of the gospel?


14. How does the believer's assurance rest on the truth of the perseverance of the saints?


15. How is the truth of the perseverance of the saints related to the other of the Five Points of Calvinism?


Scripture References:

1. Prove the truth of the perseverance of the saints.

2. Prove that it is God Who preserves the saints.

3. Prove that the saints' preservation is a preservation of them in holiness.

4. Prove that God always renews His people to repentance when they fall into sin.

5. Prove that it is by means of the Word of God and the preaching of the Word that we are preserved in salvation.

6. Prove that it is by means of prayer that we are enabled to persevere to the end.



Questions for Reflection:

1. Is there such a thing as a "carnal Christian"?


2. What means does God use to preserve us in salvation? Have you been diligent to make use of these means?


3. God preserves us not as so many individuals in isolation from each other, but as saints in relation to each other. Of what significance is membership in the church for the perseverance of the saints?


4. Will it be necessary for God to preserve us in salvation also in heaven? Explain.


5. Why is God pleased to make us perfect in the life to come, but not yet in this life?


Memory Work:

1. Psalm 37:23, 24: The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord; and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand.

2. John 10:27-29: My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand.

3. Philippians 1:6: Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.

4. I Peter 1:5: Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.


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Last modified, 19-Jan, 1999