● Has the Church of Christ as a whole drifted toward a more human-centered philosophy?
● What does the Bible say about individual responsibility and God’s own work regarding salvation?
● Have traditions clouded what is specifically taught in Scripture?
● What is our own perception of God and of mankind, including the relationship between God and mankind, and how well does it line up with Scripture?
● We all come to the table with preconceived notions, but how well do those notions compare with Scripture?
These questions are significant as we seek to conform our thoughts and understanding to the Word of God. Our loyalty is to God and His Word rather than to theologians or traditions, and this loyalty is the basis for our approach to this overview of the Doctrines of Grace.
What are the Doctrines of Grace?
We prefer to use the phrase “Doctrines of Grace” when referring to the salvation doctrines in order to focus on how these 5 specific points are biblically and theologically sound. Our desire is to be loyal to and to be proclaimers of the Word of God, rather than a theological “system.” While the Apostles, Augustine, William Tyndale, John Calvin, Charles Spurgeon, and many others did embrace and teach these same principles, it is Scripture alone that is our standard for faith and practice.
The phrase “Doctrines of Grace” describes the biblical doctrine of salvation (soteriology). Christians who embrace these doctrines recognize that all five of the doctrines are derived directly and clearly from Scripture, and that each point simply describes the Bible’s own teaching on soteriology—the doctrine of salvation. We believe and teach that each point is necessarily entwined with the others, and that it is logically and theologically inconsistent to pick and choose which points to embrace and accept. The following is a brief description of each doctrine. The first letter of each doctrine forms the historical acronym “TULIP.”
Total Depravity – As a result of Adam’s fall, the entire human race is affected; all of Adam’s descendants (except the Lord Jesus via Mary) are spiritually dead in their trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1, 5). This does not mean that all people are as bad as they could be. Rather, this doctrine says that, as a result of man’s fall in Adam, all people are unfit for the presence of God from the inside and that their depravity affects every area of their lives. We are truly dead in our trespasses, and without God working within us, we do not desire to submit to Him. Without His work within us, we would remain self-seeking children of wrath (Ephesians 2:3). Whatever works we do without Him that may seem good in appearance would remain self-seeking for the advancement of self in one way or another and are worthless (Matthew 7:21-23). Without God, we remain unclean. (Isaiah 64:6)
Unconditional Election – Because man is dead in sin, he is unable (and stubbornly unwilling) to initiate a saving response to God. In light of this, God, from eternity past, mercifully elected a particular people unto salvation (Ephesians 1:4–6), comprised of men and women from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation (Revelation 5:9). Election and predestination are unconditional; they are not contingent on man’s response to God’s grace (Romans 8:29–30; 9:11; Ephesians 1:11–12) because man, in his fallen state, is both unable and unwilling to respond favorably to Christ’s offer of salvation.
Limited Atonement – Many adherents of the Doctrines of Grace prefer the term “particular redemption” as they feel that this phrase more accurately captures the essence of this doctrine. Christ’s atonement is limited in scope in that it is particular, intended for a specific people—God’s elect. The purpose of Christ’s atoning death was not to merely make men savable and thus leaving the salvation of humanity contingent on man’s response to God’s grace. Rather, the purpose of the atonement was to secure the redemption of a particular people (Matthew 1:21; Ephesians 1:4–6; John 17:9). All whom God has elected and for whom Christ died will be saved (John 6:37–40, 44, 65).
Irresistible Grace – God has elected a particular people to be the recipients of Christ’s atoning work. These people are drawn to Christ by a grace that is irresistible. When God effectually calls, man responds (John 6:37, 44, 65; 10:14-16). This teaching does not mean that God saves men against their will. Rather, God changes the heart of the rebellious unbeliever so that he now desires to repent and be saved. God’s elect will be drawn to Him, and that grace that draws them is, in fact, irresistible. God replaces the unbeliever’s heart of stone with a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26). Regeneration (being born again by the Holy Spirit) logically precedes faith, and is chronologically simultaneous with it.
Perseverance of the Saints – The particular people God has elected and drawn to Himself through the Holy Spirit will persevere in faith. None of those whom God has elected will be lost; they are eternally secure in Him (John 10:27–29; Romans 8:29–30; Ephesians 1:3–14). Some Doctrines of Grace adherents prefer to use the term “Preservation of the Saints” as they believe that this choice of words more accurately describes how God is directly responsible for the preservation of His elect. It is clear in Scripture that Christ continues to intercede for His people (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25). This continues to provide believers with the assurance that those that belong to Christ are eternally His.
These five doctrines, known as the Doctrines of Grace, summarize the salvation experience as the result of the grace of God, who acts independently of man’s will. No effort or act of man can add to the grace of God to bring about the redemption of the soul (Romans 9:16). For truly it is “by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8–9). Salvation is truly 100% God and 0% man – Soli Deo Gloria: “to the glory of God alone!”
Our prayer and desire is to know God, and that our understanding of His plan, His purpose and our salvation through Christ will align with His Word in an ever-increasing way. May His indwelling Holy Spirit guide us as we consider all things according to what is written in Scripture, and may our love for others that comes through Him be shown through all aspects of the fruit of the Spirit as we learn and grow together through the study of His Word and through evangelism.