Tag Archives: grace

What’s So Great About the Doctrines of Grace – Review

What’s So Great About the Doctrines of Grace, by Richard D. Phillips, is a very valuable book exploring the primary doctrines of Reformed Theology.

My own journey into the doctrines of Reformed Theology began early in my Christian life. I developed a belief in the sovereignty of God, became convinced of the need in a Christian walk to have a firm faith that the God who saves us is also able to keep us as His – and saw this backed up in Scripture – and had a view that God had chosen me, not the other way around, and that grace was the how and why we were saved, not salvation based on our merit.

It was only fairly recently that I discovered that there was a systematic theology which encapsulated these doctrines, and was also so much bigger than I imagined theology was in day-to-day life. That system is Calvinism, or Reformed Theology, and since discovering some of the riches of this grace-filled and God-centred belief system I have begun to find a new, albeit at times faltering, freedom in my Christian walk.

To the Doctrines of Grace

I was pointed towards this book by a friend of mine on Google+ (we have a small community there on Reformed Fellowship) who shared a link to a free copy of the e-book version. The book is fairly short, easily one to read again and again, and within its pages it packs quite a punch.

Starting off with the doctrine which underpins the whole of Reformed Theology, the Sovereignty of God, the book then covers the famous TULIP set of doctrines: total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace and the perseverance of the saints.

Each has a chapter devoted to itself and the format of each chapter takes the form of a Scripture passage, an investigation of that passage and a bringing in of other verses in the Bible which show the truth of that particular doctrine. The initial Scripture passages are very well chosen for each chapter, and the Sovereignty of God chapter is a prime example at the start of the book:

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. – Isaiah 6:1

Richard Phillips then goes on to explore the great vision of Isaiah described in his book in chapter 6 verse 1 through to chapter 7 verse 14, showing how the vision he experienced transformed him and showed him that God is the Almighty, Sovereign Lord, rightly to be feared.

The additional Bible passages in each chapter show how well supported, Scripturally, each doctrine is, and with an amazingly good approach Mr. Phillips devotes some time in each chapter to show how great and wonderful that doctrine is, and how it is a doctrine to be loved and embraced for its bringing of great freedom and joy to it adherent.

I really only have one gripe with the book and that is in the chapter on Limited Atonement. Generally the book is exceedingly well balanced between pointing out where Arminianism falls down and showing where Calvinism is of a great strength. In the chapter of limited atonement, however, there appears to be too much emphasis on saying why Arminianism is wrong, rather than pointing out just how true and great the doctrine of limited (or particular) atonement is. This is a shame, as the other chapters are handled so well – and it is perhaps more striking because the other chapters are handled so well.

That is a small gripe, however, and is certainly no reason to pass over the book or even pass over the chapter.

An Impact on Me

This book has not solved all my problems. Also, we must remember that no book or doctrine can replace our personal relationship with Jesus and our Father in heaven. Having said that I have been greatly, and positively, influenced by this book. It has firmed my beliefs in God’s sovereignty, my security in Christ and my freedom to walk in the path God has chosen for me. It has also brought moments of great joy and a much more secure peace for a much greater part of the time.

I would thoroughly recommend that you get yourself a copy and give it a read. I for one certainly plan to read it again.

(You can purchase the Kindle version here. I receive no reward or commission for this link.)

Leave a comment

Filed under Faith

The Wonderful Liberty Given by a Sovereign God

(Image courtesy of SXC.hu)

(Image courtesy of SXC.hu)

I am discovering more and more about the wonderful and glorious liberty of the Gospel – a liberty which does not mean license to sin but does mean that I can trust God, even if I should sin.

This freedom comes about because of the wonderful doctrines of grace, so wonderfully espoused by Paul and yet for those doctrines he and godly men through the ages have had to contend against abominable heresies.

At present my focus is on the Sovereignty of God.

It is through my belief that God is Almighty and is the Sovereign Lord that I can trust Him – trust Him to keep me as being His just as Jesus said that no-one can snatch me out of His hand.

I have often been tormented with thoughts that “yes God, I know You have done Your best, but I am simply unable to live in obedience to You as my own best is sorely not good enough.” I had a God that “tried His best” to save me but was ultimately impotent in the face of my own iniquity. Such a view may be popular in some circles but it is the damnable heresy of Pelagianism and Semipelagianism, whereby we are the final arbiters of our salvation and can freely choose to gain or lose salvation through our own choices or frail mistakes.

God is Sovereign

To believe in a God that “does His best” to save us, as the aforementioned heretical systems teach and that the Arminian philosophy also teaches, denies that God is Almighty. He “tries” to save everyone but only succeeds with a few.

Yet to my mind the Bible is clear: God is Sovereign and if He has in His mind the purpose to bring a person into His Kingdom then there is no manner or means in which He will fail to achieve His purposes.

This brings a great comfort. For if God has so purposed to grant me mercy then I know there is no circumstance nor action nor any frailty on my part that would cause Him to repent of the mercy He has had upon me. I can, therefore, live in freedom from the fear of man and the fear of the present and the fear of the future, and place my hope and my trust fully into Him.

It is by grace that I have been saved

It is by grace that I have been saved. I did not earn it – I could not earn it. And so, because that grace was given by a Sovereign act of God, so I know and can fully trust that He will not rescind on His mercy. Therefore I have liberty – not to sin, to be a slave of sin – but a liberty to serve my Lord with peace and gladness of heart.

God is just. He is, through and through, a just God. But with a beauty which could only be formed in the glorious wisdom of God He has caused justice and mercy to meet at the Cross of Christ – that Christ bore my sin and my sins, taking the just wrath of God upon Himself, that I may go free. Christ didn’t die so that I could choose Him to take those sins upon Himself – He took my sins and sinfulness upon Himself before I could know that He had. The realisation of that is the Gospel message, the Truth that sets me free.

2 Comments

Filed under Doctrine, Faith

Blessed to be Chosen by God

“Blessed is the man You choose, And cause to approach You, That he may dwell in Your courts. We shall be satisfied with the goodness of Your house, Of Your holy temple.” – Psalm 65:4

This verse is wonderful. In it we see the fullness of what we need to do in order for God to call us “blessed”. The total sum of the requirement for us to be blessed in such a way is for God to choose us and cause us to approach Him. It is a sovereign act of God and we play no part other than response.

God's grace is wonderful.(Image courtesy of sxc.hu) Copyright held.

God’s grace is wonderful.
(Image courtesy of sxc.hu. Copyright held.)

The Gospel Message

The Gospel message is that of divine grace, not one where we earn favour.

“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His  great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).” – Ephesians 2:4-5

“For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” – Romans 5:6

We were dead in trespasses and had no means nor manner of attaining the knowledge of God. Nothing which we ourselves could do would be able to give us life. We were dead to God, and as such were enemies of God, by our very nature children of wrath and our thoughts were constantly inclined against God. How then could a man that hates God come to approach Him? Such a man that is not only dead to God, but actively despises God, would in no manner want to approach Him.

And so we see in the opening verse that in order to be blessed we must approach God, and we can only do that because God has chosen us.

Herein lays great comfort. If we come humbly before the Living God in the Name of His Son Jesus Christ we can have that full assurance of faith that He has chosen us and that God Himself declares us to be blessed.

Do you yearn and hunger to come before the Father, to approach His throne of grace? Then I would urge that you do so, for it is God Himself that is calling you and if you respond to His grace then you will know that it cannot be by your own effort but only that God has chosen you for thus, and therefore He calls you blessed.

Leave a comment

Filed under Scripture teaching, The Gospel

Abounding Grace

I make no secret of the fact that I have some serious troubles with sin. I’m sure, if we are honest, that we all can see so many ways in which we “fall short of the glory of God”. We live in a fallen world, and we ourselves have the nature of fallen man within us (the flesh, or sinful nature), and of course the devil is keen to tempt and accuse us when he can.

Yet if we are believers in the crucified and risen Christ then we have access to the Father through the Spirit, we have forgiveness of sin, we have a new nature, one “not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:13). We are born again, and are by nature creatures of mercy, not wrath.

I need to make an important point before I continue with the main thrust of this post: we should never take God’s grace as a light matter, or as an excuse to indulge in sin. Paul says:

“What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” – Romans 6:1-4

We should certainly not take the sacrifice of Christ as a license to sin. Many have spoken of what is known as “cheap grace” – the concept of forgiveness without a repentant heart. That is not the Way. The Way of Jesus is to “Repent! For the kingdom of God is near!”

Yet we all do fall into sinful behaviour. Some of these are one-offs and we can return to Christ and the Father and confess and repent of our sins, and know we have learnt our lesson. Some sins, however, are habitual, and we find ourselves falling in that one area or those few areas again and again. Sometimes these habitual sins can really get us down.

I want to encourage you! However hard you fall, however many times you fall, God is faithful. If you are His then “no-one is able to snatch [you] out of [the] Father’s hands.” – John 10:29.

God’s grace is quite astounding. It truly is an amazing grace. His grace abounds towards us, and abounds toward us more and more. Yes, even if we are trapped in a habitual sin God’s grace is sufficient, and He will grant victory at some point and we must co-operate with that deliverance. We must have a repentant attitude: we must be constantly turning away from the sinful inclinations and turn to God and draw on His strength. His grace abounds, He does forgive, and He will grant us His deliverance as we, seemingly again and again, have to turn to Him for restoration after a fall.

Do not lose heart! Remember: God’s grace is abounding toward you!

“For a righteous man may fall seven times And rise again, But the wicked shall fall by calamity.” – Proverbs 24:16

Leave a comment

Filed under Faith, Scripture teaching