First Thing’s First – Back in the 16th Century, a new Christian movement started by German theologist Martin Luther took place in Germany. It’s now known as the Reformation.
What happened? – The Reformers were against the Roman Catholic church, which was dominating at the time. Why?
Indulgences – In the Catholic church, indulgences were purchased to reduce the severity of punishment a person had to undergo to pay for their sins to find their way to heaven.
The Reformation – The Reformers saw that this was an issue, so they brought Christianity back to the Bible and salvation in Christ.
John Calvin – Years later, French theologian John Calvin also played a big part in the Reformation. He made sure to straighten incorrect Christian perceptions – the teachings he taught are what we believe today!
“We are not sinners because we sin. We sin because we are sinners.” – R.C. Sproul
We Are Sinners – Total Depravity is based on the Reformed understanding of how all humans have fallen into sin. Due to his failure to obey God, Adam and the rest of his offspring fell into sin.
What Is Sin? – Sin is man’s rebellion against God, and because of sin, our relationship with God is broken – we are all guilty before Him. Because of sin, we must all perish (Romans 6:23).
Depraved – Because of sin, our whole existence; reason, emotions, desires, body; are all corrupted and contaminated. Because of sin, God’s image in man is damaged but not entirely gone.
Our Salvation – So why can’t we save ourselves? Total Depravity means that we have failed towards anything good, meaning that we have no desire or ability to search for God.
Jesus Christ – A person that cannot swim is unable to save a drowning person. Similarly, because we are sinners, we cannot save ourselves. Only Jesus Christ – sinless in nature, can save us from our depravity.
God’s Sovereignty – Unconditional election means that our election is based on the sovereignty of God, rather than an action or good deed from us that prompts God to save us.
“Though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of Him who calls” – Romans 9:11
Jacob and Esau – You might remember the story of Jacob and Esau. In the Bible times, it was normal for the firstborn son to receive inheritance or blessings, but in their case, God blessed the younger son; Jacob. Strange?
Injustice? – On what basis does God elect to save people? And what happens to those who aren’t of God’s elect – isn’t this unfair?
By Grace – Of course it isn’t unfair. Since we’re all depraved sinners, we deserve to perish (Romans 3:23). And so if God sovereignly bestows His gift of grace on some sinners and not all, it is completely just.
Through Faith – It is God’s divine right to execute His mercy when and where He desires. Our response to this is to pray and ask for God’s grace. So in faith, we must live our life for and glorifying Jesus our Saviour.
“For He says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.‘” – Romans 9:15
Redemption – Limited atonement is to do with God’s plan for our salvation – specifically about how redemption is only for His elect. It is about how Christ died for those that the Father had given Him.
A Reformed View – Christ’s death bought us salvation, but not in a way that God just hoped that people would believe. God has a specific plan for each individual – His plan was perfectly executed through Jesus’ death.
Sufficient For All, Efficient For Some – The limit of elected people does not mean that Jesus isn’t capable of saving everyone. He is perfectly capable of saving everyone, but not all are part of God’s plan.
His Chosen People – His chosen people are a group of people that have been predestined by God in eternity to receive eternal life. In His wisdom, God passes by those who aren’t of His chosen people.
Jesus says in John 6:37, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.”
Did you know that of the 131 times the word “grace” is mentioned in the Bible, 124 of them are in the New Testament – 86 of which are from the apostle Paul. That’s two-thirds of the word “grace” from just one author!
What is grace? – Simply put; grace is a gift from God. A gift that we undeservingly receive, not because of our own works, therefore, we may not boast of it. (Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 11:6).
On the contrary – Grace is also a power for living – it’s an influence or acting of God that works in us to change our capacities for work and suffering and obedience – John Piper.
“God’s grace is so powerful that it has the capacity to overcome our natural resistance to it.” – R.C. Sproul
Natural resistance – Because of sin or Total Depravity, as humans, we naturally resist God and His grace. We push Him away because of fear, disappointment, idols and whatnot. But God’s love and grace allow us to be with Him.
A hardened heart – “Irresistible grace” doesn’t mean that God forces His grace onto us, but it means that the Holy Spirit changes the tendencies of our heart and our will. Through the grace of God, our hardened hearts are melted.
The work of grace – The irresistible grace of God affects those whom He intends it to affect. The only reason why we want to come to Christ is if God’s grace has been worked in us. That’s why we say that grace precedes faith.
Perseverance of the Saints
“True Christians can have radical and serious falls but never total and final falls from grace”. – R.C. Sproul
Once saved, always saved – Perseverance of the Saints is about the idea that if you are truly faithful and have received God’s grace, you will never lose it.
Outward faith? – You may have heard about the type of Christians who profess their faith but don’t truly believe in Christ as their living Saviour. Or Christians who honour Christ with their lips but whose hearts are far from Him.
“I never knew you” – Towards Christians like these, Christ replies; “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness” – (Matt 7:23). So-called ‘Christians‘ like these were, in fact, never part of God’s chosen people.
Inevitable sin – As we see in the stories of David and Peter, none of us are perfect, and it is inevitable that we fall into sin. But we must remember that true Christians will never completely lose God’s grace or go totally astray.
“Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” – 1 Corinthians 10:12
Perseverance – Something to remember is that God’s work of salvation in us is not because of our perseverance. It is completely by His own hands. A more accurate way to describe this is the Preservation of the Saints.
R.C. Sproul, “TULIP and Reformed Theology: Total Depravity.” Ligioner Ministries, https://www.ligonier.org/blog/tulip-and-reformed-theology-total-depravity/
B. Kristanto, D. Tong, “Man and Sin”, (Module 4), IREC Catechism
R.C. Sproul, “TULIP and Reformed Theology: Unconditional Election.” Ligioner Ministries, https://www.ligonier.org/blog/tulip-and-reformed-theology-unconditional-election/
R.C. Sproul, “TULIP and Reformed Theology: Limited Atonement.” Ligioner Ministries, https://www.ligonier.org/blog/tulip-and-reformed-theology-limited-atonement/
B. Kristanto, D. Tong, “His Chosen People”, (Module 8), IREC Catechism
Did Christ Die for the Whole World? // Ask Pastor John https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-sEu0-0RrOI
R.C. Sproul, “TULIP and Reformed Theology: Irresistible Grace.” Ligioner Ministries, www.ligonier.org/blog/tulip-and-reformed-theology-irresistible-grace/
What Is Grace? (Ask Pastor John), https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/what-is-grace
By His Grace, for His Name, Through the Obedience of Faith https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/by-his-grace-for-his-name-through-the-obedience-of-faith
R.C. Sproul, “TULIP and Reformed Theology: Perseverance of the Saints.” Ligioner Ministries, https://www.ligonier.org/blog/tulip-and-reformed-theology-perseverance-saints/
Vivienne Han (17) writes and designs for RE Generation-Z. She hopes to use her interests to bring more teens to Jesus. When she isn’t busy drawing, you’ll find her watching random Ted-Eds or tending to her succulent garden.