There are several distinctive truths of Calvinism. These principles in sum separate the Doctrines of Grace from other systems of theology. A person who believes these doctrines is typically described as Reformed in their soteriology. This article is a confession of the Doctrines of Grace. It is not a defense. I simply want to bear witness to these convictions that are very dear to me.
The Wickedness of Every Man
I believe that every human is born with a heart naturally inclined to sin. “There is none who seeks for God” (Rom 3:11). It is not that man literally cannot come to God, but rather that he will not come to God. Yet because his hostility for God is so strong, it is true to say that he will never seek for God nor submit to God in love. Thus, it is in that sense that every man is unable to come to God due to the depravity of his evil will (Mk 10:24-27). His will is bound to his own wicked affections (Rom 8:6-8).
The Father’s Merciful Choice
I believe that God chose specific sinners to redeem from sin and bring into an eternal enjoyment of His glory. “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him” (Eph 1:4). Salvation does not depend on the will of man, but rather on God’s will to have mercy (Rom 9:16). God’s will to save an individual is the dependent factor in that individual’s salvation. There was no condition that any person had to meet prior to God’s decision to save that person. God’s salvific love is thus unconditional.
The Son’s Redeeming Sacrifice
I believe that Christ’s work on the cross definitively secured salvation for all those whom God chose to save (Eph 1:4). The atonement is unlimited in power yet limited in the scope of individuals to whom it is applied. No one for whom Christ bore sin will fall into eternal damnation (Rom 8:32-33). The intention of God at the cross was not to simply make salvation possible but rather to secure redemption through His blood for the saints (Eph 1:7). Christ literally was substituted for the saints as a sacrifice to appease God’s wrath (Rom 3:25).
The Spirit’s Resurrecting Power
I believe that all those whom God chose and redeemed, He powerfully seals by His Spirit. “You were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise” (Eph 1:13). He resurrects their dead natures and gives them a heart that loves Him (Ezek 36; Jn 3:5; Rom 8:30). Only the Spirit gives such life (Jn 6:63; Eph 2:8-9). The most basic fruit of this regeneration is an affection for Jesus Christ (Jn 1:9-13; 1 Jn 5:1). The saint’s heart now has “taste buds” for God in such a way that he is removed from the bondage of wicked desires and effectually drawn to God (Eph 2:4-5).
The Hope of Every Saint
I believe that all those whom God chose, redeemed and sealed will be raised with Christ and glorified. “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day” (Jn 6:44). All of Christ’s sheep have eternal life and cannot be snatched out of God’s hand (Jn 10:27-29). No individual whom God sets His salvific love upon is left unglorified (Rom 8:29-30). A saint’s salvation is as secure as God’s will is sovereign: his peace rests on God’s immutable and effectual will to save (Rom 8:31-39).
These five pillars articulate one defining conviction: if it were not for God’s mercy, I would in every sense be lost. The difference made between the “wickedness” of the first and the “hope” of the last, is the Trinitarian work of God. I must confess with Jonah: “Salvation is from the Lord” (Jon 2:9).
I have thought, if God had left me alone, and had not touched me by His grace, what a great sinner I should have been! I should have run to the utmost lengths of sin, dived into the very depths of evil, nor should I have stopped at any vice or folly, if God had not restrained me. I feel that I should have been a very king of sinners, if God had let me alone. I cannot understand the reason why I am saved, except upon the ground that God would have it so. I cannot, if I look ever so earnestly, discover any kind of reason in myself why I should be a partaker of divine grace. If I am not at this moment without Christ, it is only because Christ Jesus would have His will with me, and that will was that I should be with Him where He is, and should share in His glory. I can put the crown nowhere but upon the head of Him whose mighty grace has saved me from going down into the pit. (Spurgeon, “A Defense of Calvinism”)