Doctrines of Grace

In this series of posts, we’ll look at some of the terms used to try and capture what we believe and value. Words have meaning, but divorced from context they could be misunderstood. Understanding how words are defined and used is essential. On our Statement of Faith page it mentions that we hold to the “doctrines of grace.” So what does that mean?

The doctrines of grace which is sometimes referred to as “reformed” theology lies at the heart of the gospel. These doctrines (teachings) describe the grace of God in the rescue of sinners.

Historically, these doctrines have been expressed in 5 points.

1. The total depravity or total inability of sinners. Point 6 (“Man”) of our Statement of Faith reads, “… all men are sinners by nature and by choice and therefore under the just condemnation of a righteous God; that he is utterly incapacitated to receive the grace of God apart from the quickening of the Holy Spirit.” That is, everyone is sinful by their very nature and he is unable to come to God and receive God grace apart from the quickening (or regenerating work) of the Holy Spirit. Unless one is “born again” (quickened or regenerated) he cannot see the kingdom of God (John 3:3). [See 1 Cor 2:14; Rom 3:10-11; 8:8; John 1:12-13; 6:44, 65; Eph 2:1-3]

2. God selects people unconditionally (not because of anything in them) to be recipients of his grace. Point 7 (“Salvation”) of our Statement of Faith reads, “We believe that salvation is by the sovereign, electing grace of God …” Apart from the intervention of God, man would remain in his sin but God chose to act to redeem a people for himself, not based on their goodness or faith (which they are unable to attain (see above), but based on his sovereign loving mercy and grace. [See Acts 13:48; John 8:47; 18:37; Rom 8:28-33; 9:1-23; Eph 1:3-6, 11; Deut 7:7-8]

3. Jesus’ death was efficacious and actually saves those whom he died for. Point 7 (“Salvation”) in our Statement of Faith reads, “…by the appointment of the Father, Christ voluntarily suffered a vicarious expiatory and propitiatory death…” It was God’s will to send Jesus to the cross (Isaiah 53:10; Acts 2:23; 4:27-28), and Jesus voluntarily carried out the Father’s will (John 4:34; 6:38) by dying on the cross. What does the statement of faith mean when it says Christ suffered a “vicarious expiatory and propitiatory death”? A vicarious death is a death for another, a substitutionary death. Expiation refers to the removal of guilt for sin. Christ’s death removed the guilt of sin for those he died for. Propitiation refers to the removal of God’s wrath. Christ’s death removed the penalty of sin—God’s wrath—for those he died for. In other words, those for whom Christ vicariously died for no longer bear the guilt or penalty of sin. [John 10:11; Rom 8:31-32; Eph 5:25; Rev 5:9]

4. God’s work of salvation is effective. Point 7 (“Salvation”) in our Statement of Faith reads, “…those whom God has effectually called shall be divinely preserved…” God’s electing grace and Christ’s substitutionary death not only make people savable, they actually save. The divine call is effectual or effective. Through the grace of God and the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ are made so beautiful to the sinner that they irresistibly call out to Christ for salvation. Not one for whom God has called, Christ has died for, or the Spirit quickened shall be lost. [John 1:12; 6:37; 10:14-16; 10:27-30; Acts 16:14; Rom 8:29-30; 31-32, 38-39; 1 Corinthians 1:23-24; 1 John 5:1]

5. God’s work of salvation will be brought to perfect completion. Point 7 (“Salvation”) in our Statement of Faith reads, “…those whom God has effectually called shall be divinely preserved and finally perfected in the image of the Lord.” That is, it is impossible to lose your salvation since that salvation is wrought by God and is his work that will be completed. [John 10:27-30; Rom 8:29-39; Jude 24]

The doctrines of grace are a more detailed way of saying, “Salvation is of the Lord.”

Click the “Distinctives” category below for more posts in this series.