Tag Archives: reformed theology

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.)

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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.

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