For further study

The five points of Calvinism ought to be a matter of serious study for everyone, as one's own spiritual welfare is at issue and the truth of the gospel of grace in Christ.

The original statement of the five points of Calvinism are found in the Canons of Dordt. In studying the Canons it is important to keep in mind that the Canons of Dordt assume one holds the Heidelberg Catechism and the Confession of Faith which also teach the same doctrine. What these Reformed creeds state concerning grace, election, the atonement, faith and conversion, the church, as well as infant baptism (including what this same Synod said in the Baptism Form) should be kept in mind.

The following material treats the five points or aspects of them.

Jesus Himself had much to say on these issues and this is discussed in the section:

The link, Particular Grace, continues this subject by addressing issues and doctrinal corruptions of the doctrines of grace.

How the doctrine of the covenant is viewed has a direct relationship to this discussion, particularly how it is that God establishes His covenant in the line of the generations of believers with believers and their seed.

The doctrines of grace and the doctrine of the church are also intimately connected. The church is the organic realization of the gathering of God's elect into the household of faith.

For a systematic study of the doctrines of grace in the context of the whole of Reformed doctrine see also the online course on the Essentials of Reformed Doctrine

"Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ," Philippians 1:6

The Doctrines of Grace in Brief

The doctrines of grace or the five points of Calvinism are the true confession that salvation is of grace alone. This, for one who sees himself as a sinner that is lost in his own sin and guilty before God, is the only answer which brings peace, For it is the glad tidings that salvation is of God, that it is of grace in Christ, and that it is His work in us, but that glad tidings begins by taking sin seriously.

  • Total Depravity

The first point of Calvinism is the truth of sin and man's depravity--that man is by nature dead in tresspases and sin, Ephesians 2:1. It is the truth that man is a sinner, bound in sin by nature, a slave in the kingdom of darkness, and a child of wrath and disobedience, Ephesians 2:2, 3. It is the truth that man is unable and unwilling to save himself, for he is at enmity with God, Romans 8:7, and cannot know spiritual things I Corinthians 2:14. This is the truth of the total depravity and inability of the human nature. Dead means dead.

That man is still a rational, moral creature does not change this, for he is a wicked and depraved rational, moral creature. By nature he loves sin, freely chooses sin. He is a responsible moral agent. He is free to act in harmony with his nature, but his nature is wicked. This is the assessment the Word of God gives in detail in Romans 3:10-19. Man is not free to act contrary to his nature, to choose the good, to turn to God. Man by nature is in bondage.

  • Unconditional election

The second point of Calvinism is the truth that salvation proceeds from God in eternity according to His purpose in Christ to save and redeem and glorify His own grace in a people whom He has chosen in Christ personally to be His children. This wonder of grace is not caused by anything in man but is of the mere grace of God Who wills to form and adopt to Himself a family, His children, and bring them to the inheritance of eternal glory, Ephesians 1:4-6. Election is unconditional, proceeding from God's good pleasure.

To this sovereign determination of God belongs the truth of sovereign predestination, the truth of election and also of reprobation. It is the truth of God Who says, "I will have mercy upon whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. Romans 9:15. Salvation therefore is not of man. "So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy," Romans 9:16. This is indeed the only hope for one who is in himself dead in sin, for it means that even his knowledge of his own misery is a work of grace and of God's mercy.

  • Limited Atonement, or particular redemption

The third point of Calvinism is the truth that Christ came to die for the sins of His people and to give His life a ransom by making full and complete satisfaction and atonement for our debt of sin and guilt, Matthew 1:21; Matthew 26:28; Hebrews 10:14; Hebrews 9:14, 15; I Peter 1:18, 19. That death of Christ involved a definite and actual atonement, a propitiation or appeasing of God's wrath against the sins of His people, by which He endured what hell is, so as to infallibly deliver and save them, John 10:11, 14, 15; Mark15:34; John19:30. That death of Christ was a personal, vicarious, and substitutionary atonement, not a mere provision, Hebrews 10:14.

By His death and resurrection as the head of the elect Christ has reconciled us unto God by His blood and is become our righteousness before God, Colossians 1:18-22; Romans 8:31-33; Romans 3:25-26. It is Christ now, by the power of His cross, Who through the Spirit applies salvation to us, and gathers His flock out of the world of sin and death, John 10:14, 16, 26, 27; John 17:2; I Peter 1:21.

  • Irresistible Grace

The fourth point of Calvinism is the truth that God in Christ by the Holy Spirit effectually applies to the elect every blessing of salvation. This means that God therefore regenerates, I Peter 1:3; effectually calls unto faith, John 5:25, Acts 16:14; gives us to come unto Christ by faith, and draws us, imparting the gift of saving faith, John 6:44, 65. It is He also Who justifies us through faith, Romans 8:33, 34; and sanctifies His people unto godliness, Philippians 2:13.

That grace of God is the powerful working of God in the heart of sinner who is dead in himself. It is set forth in scripture first of all as a new birth, I Peter 1:3; John 3:3, 6; a circumcision of the heart, Deuteronomy 30:6; a heart transplant, Ezekiel 36:25, 26; a spiritual resurrection from the dead, Ephesians 2:1, 6; John 5:25. It is set forth as an irresistible call of grace by which the gospel is worked in the heart of sinner and he is called out of the darkness of sin into the light of God's grace and saving faith, Matthew 13:16; I Corinthians 2:10, 12; Ephesians 1:18; I Peter 2:9. By that work of grace we are given to hear Christ by His Word and Spirit in the preaching of the gospel and are given to repent and believe, John 10:4, 5,14, 16, 26, 27; Romans 1:16.

This truth also shapes the fundamental understanding of the preaching of the gospel--that it is not an invitation or offer to be accepted or rejected by the will of man (which is the doctrine of salvation by works applied to preaching). Rather the preaching is a means of grace by which God effectually calls His own by name in Christ as His sheep and works in them faith and believing by the command of the gospel.

  • Preservation and perseverance of the saints

The fifth point of Calvinism is the truth that God preserves His saints, H is redeemed people in the grace of salvation and causes them to persevere in faith unto the end and eternal salvation. John 10:27-29; John 17:2; I Peter 1:5; I Thessalonians 3:12, 13; I Thessalonians 5:25. This does not mean that believers may not or do not fall, even into serious sins, but God turns them again from sin, renews them in repentance and delivers them, as the history of David show, II Samuel 12, Psalm 51; Psalm 32; see also I John 1:8, 9.

This grace of God is wrought by His Word and Spirit in such a way that being preserved in faith, believers are also given to fight the battle of faith and overcome the world through faith, persevering unto the end.

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