October 19, 2015
The doctrines of grace are not just rooted in the grace of God, and demonstrate the grace of God; they should also produce grace in those who believe these truths. Here are five fruits that result from a full embrace of the doctrines of grace.
1. A Profound Humility
Total depravity does not mean we are as bad as we possibly can be; it means that we are so corrupted in every part of our being that we are rendered disabled for any good work, faith, repentance, etc. Total depravity may be better named, Total inability.
However most people, including most Christians, do not believe in total inability. A recent survey by Ligonier Ministries and Lifeway Research found that
67% agree, “Everyone sins at least a little, but most people are by nature good,”
40% agree “God loves me because of the good I do or have done.”
Only 16% agree with the doctrine that says “people do not have the ability to turn to God on their own initiative.”
71% of Americans agree that “an individual must contribute his/her own effort for personal salvation.”
64% of Americans agree “a person obtains peace with God by first taking the initiative to seek God and then God responds with grace.”
This has serious repercussions because unless we know how serious our sickness is, we won’t see our urgent need of the Good Doctor, Jesus Christ, and will be slow, or refuse, to call upon Him for mercy and grace. On top of that, if we think we have any spiritual ability left, we will give ourselves at least part of the credit for salvation, especially if the decisive cause of our salvation is in ourselves.
The doctrines of grace show us what we are and what we truly deserve. They therefore humble us, bring us low, puncture pride, eliminate self-righteousness, drive us from self-sufficiency, and silence all boasting. As the Apostle said: “No flesh should glory in His presence” (1 Cor. 1:29).
2. An Inestimable Value
Some might say that the doctrine of total inability demolishes self-worth and self-esteem. Yes and No.
Yes, it demolishes all false and groundless views of our moral or spiritual worth. Because of sin, we have none.
No, because a right view of the doctrines of grace produces a new, better, and deeper sense of worth.
Despite what I am, despite what I am not, despite what I cannot do, and despite nothing in me to attract Him, God has chosen to love me, Christ has chosen to die for me, and the Holy Spirit has chosen to make me alive and live inside me. Can anything produce a more valuable self-identity, a greater sense of worth, than that?
As John Piper wrote, the doctrines of grace “give the lowest view of the saved person as utterly depraved and hopeless in himself, and the highest view of the saved person as individually chosen and loved and purchased at infinite cost.”
3. A Deep Intimacy
Calvinism should also produce a much more personal relationship with God than Arminianism. For the Arminian, everyone is loved the same as the other. There is no discrimination in God’s love. God loved me no more than Adolf Hitler or Osama Bin Laden. The Arminian says that the difference between me and Hitler/Bin Laden is simply that I chose to believe whereas they did not. God did no more for me than for them when it comes to the decisive cause of our salvation.
But the doctrines of grace teach us that God’s love is so personalized that it infallibly secures the salvation of every single person it is set on. God chose particular named people, Christ died for the exact same people, and the Holy Spirit effectually calls exactly the same people. That’s so much more personal and intimate than a generalized love for all.
4. A Lively Spirituality
In What Is Experiential Calvinism?, Ian Hamilton wrote:
Calvinism is natively experiential. Before it is a theological system, Calvinism is deeply affectional, God-centered, cross-magnifying religion. A man may loudly trumpet his adherence to the distinctive tenets of Calvinism, but if his life is not marked by delight in God and His gospel, his professed Calvinism is a sham. In other words, there is no such thing as “dead Calvinism.” Such is a theological oxymoron for one simple reason: Calvinism claims to be biblical religion, and biblical religion is not only profoundly theological, it is deeply experiential and engagingly affectional! Wherever men and women claim to be Calvinists, their lives and their ministries will pulse with life—the life of living, Spirit-inspired, Christ-glorifying, God-centered truth.
When we really grasp God’s sovereignty, we will firmly grasp His throne in prayer, we will long to live in grateful obedience to His commands, we will seek the advancement of God’s glory, and we will sing as never before and as no-one else. Consistent Calvinists should be the most thankful, the most worshipful, the most prayerful of Christians.
Because we believe not only in salvation by grace, through faith, to God’s glory; we believe in salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, to the glory of God alone. Which brings us to…
5. A Big God
The doctrines of grace result in a bigger view of God. They give us a God-centered view of reality, putting God at the beginning, center, and end of everything. “Of Him, through Him, and to Him are all things” (Rom. 11:36).
One consequence of this is that no sin is too big for our big God. We can approach the most hopeless situations and the most helpless people knowing that salvation is “not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy” (Rom. 9:16). What unstoppable impetus this should give to our evangelism and missions.
If we realize that salvation is totally, completely, and entirely of the Lord (Jonah 2:9; John 1:12-13; Rom. 9:16), we will take no credit but give all the glory to God (1 Cor. 1:31; Rev. 1:5-6). There’s nothing a Calvinist enjoys more than seeing his own glory diminish and God’s advance, seeing himself shrink and God being magnified.
I’m not saying that you will find these five fruits in every Calvinist, or even in me — if only — but they should be the logical and biblical outflow of God’s sovereign grace conquering not just the head but the heart.
Professor David Murray of Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary blogs at HEAD, HEART AND HAND.