|Statement of Doctrine
All those whom God hath predestinated unto life, and those only, He is
pleased, in His appointed and accepted time, effectually to call, by His
word and Spirit, out of that state of sin and death in which they are by
nature, to grace and salvation by Jesus Christ; enlightening their minds
spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God; taking away
their heart of stone, and giving unto them an heart of flesh; renewing
their wills, and by His almighty power determining them to that which is
good; and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ; yet so as they come
most freely, being made willing by His grace.
This effectual call is of God's free and special grace alone, not from
any thing at all foreseen in man; who is altogether passive therein,
until, being quickened and renewed by the Holy Spirit, He is thereby
enabled to answer this call, and to embrace the grace offered and
conveyed in it. (Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter X, Sections 1
Romans 9:16; Philippians 2:12-13; James 1:18; 1 Corinthians 1:1-2, 23-29;
Romans 8:30; John 6:37, 44-45, 64-65; Acts 13:48
Irresistible Grace is Necessary
- Man in his natural state is radically corrupt. He can never
become holy through any power of his own. He is spiritually dead.
- If a man is spiritually dead, then nothing short of a
supernatural, life-giving power will cause him to do that which is
- Man is at enmity with God and that enmity must be removed
before he can have any desire for Christ.
- Regeneration is a sovereign gift of God, graciously bestowed
on those whom He has chosen. Only God is able to regenerate sinful
An Inward Change
- It is called in Scripture:
- a regeneration (Titus 3:5)
- a spiritual resurrection (Ephesians 1:19, 20)
- a calling out from darkness to God's marvelous light
(1 Peter 2:9)
- a passing out of death into life (John 5:24)
- a new birth (John 3:3)
- a making alive (Colossians 2:13)
- a taking away the heart of stone and giving one of
flesh (Ezekiel 11:19)
- A regeneration of the soul is something wrought in us, not
performed by us. It involves an essential change of character.
- The pre-requisite for entrance into the kingdom of God is a
radical transformation wrought by the Spirit of God.
- It is entirely a work of grace. God is under no
obligation to give it.
- The soul, dead in sin, is first transferred to
spiritual life and then exercises faith, repentance and good works.
- Men can only do so much through external
words and means to bring people to God. It is God who opens the hearts
- God's power is primary, ours is secondary and
only is exerted in response to the Divine. It is by the same mighty
power that a person is saved as that was used to raise Christ from the
dead (Ephesians 1:19-20).
- God exercises His power in the spiritual realm as He did (and
does) in the physical realm.
- He is not just endeavoring. He is not bowing to the
creature's "lordly will." He is not sharing salvation with man.
The Effect Produced in the Soul
- The immediate and important effect is that the person loves
righteousness and trusts in Christ for salvation.
- The desires are changed and the will follows.
- Sin remains, but it is only struggling against an
- Confusion must not be made between regeneration and
- Regeneration is strictly God's work, in which He
implants a new principle of spiritual life. It is performed by
supernatural power and complete in an instant.
- Sanctification is a process through which the remains
of sin in the outward life are gradually removed. Perfect righteousness
is our life's goal, but it is not obtained until death.
- Our redemption (regeneration and sanctification) is
complete in Christ but is applied gradually by the Holy Spirit.
The Sufficiency of Christ's Work: Evangelicalism
- We believe two things regarding Christ's work in redemption:
- By His suffering and death, Christ fully paid the
debt of His people owed to divine justice (thus releasing His people from
the consequences of sin).
- By His keeping of the law of perfect obedience,
Christ earned for His people the reward of eternal life.
- This is sometimes referred to as Christ's active and
- If faith and obedience must be added to Christ's work
(depending on the choice of man), then doubt is cast on the sufficiency
of Christ's work on our behalf.
- We no longer have evangelicalism (that God alone saves).
- Evangelicalism combined with a universal atonement
leads to universal salvation.
Universal Grace (the Arminian view)
- The grace (provided at the atonement) is Universal
(i.e. everyone has an opportunity for salvation).
- The grace does not save anyone, but only opens a way
of salvation so men can save themselves.
- The Creed of the Evangelical Union (the
Morisonians) was a
Unconditional Election. A summary of its position found within the
creed itself (called the "Three Universals") is reproduced here:
- "The love of God the Father, in the gift and
sacrifice of Jesus to all men everywhere without distinction, exception,
or respect of persons;
- "The love of God the Son, in the gift and sacrifice
of Himself as a true propitiation for the sins of the whole world; and
- "The love of God the Holy Spirit, in His personal and
continuous work of applying to the souls of all men the provisions of
- Certainly if God loves all men alike, and if Christ died for
all men alike, and if the Holy Spirit applies the benefits of that
redemption to all men alike, one of two conclusions follows:
- All men are saved (which is contradicted by
- All that God does for man does not save him, but
leaves him to save himself!
- If we assert that after God has done all His work it is still
left to man to "accept" or "not resist," then we give man veto power over
the work of Almighty God and salvation ultimately rests in the hand of man.
- No matter how great a proportion of the work of
salvation is God's, man is ultimately the deciding factor.
- The man who does come to salvation has some personal
merit of his own, something which he can boast about (Ephesians 2:9).
- These universalistic approaches reduce Christianity
to a religion of works.
No Violation of Man's Free Agency
- This doctrine is commonly said to imply that men are forced
to believe against their wills, or that men are machines in the matter of
- Calvinists hold no such opinion and the full
doctrinal statement excludes it.
- Regeneration is not of an outward and compelling nature.
Regeneration does no more violence to the soul than demonstration does to
the intellect, or persuasion to the heart.
- The regenerated man finds himself governed by new
motives and desires. The change is accomplished through a new principle
of life which has been created within the soul.
- There are many passages which command us to obey or to turn
to Jesus, but these do not imply that man has free will and ability.
- It is self-conceit to assume that one has sufficient
power within oneself to obey God (and therefore earn salvation).
- Man is taught in these passages what he
ought to do, not what he can do.
- Possibly the word "irresistible" used in the acronym TULIP
has done a lot to confuse this point. A better term for modern audiences
would be "effectual" or "efficacious."
- Common grace is the general influence of the Holy Spirit
which to a greater or lesser degree is shared by all men.
- God's sun shines on the evil and the good.
- God sends the rain on the just and the unjust.
- God sends fruitful seasons.
- God is the source of all health, material prosperity,
general intelligence, talents for art, music, oratory, literature,
commerce, inventions, etc.
- Common grace is the source of all the order,
refinement, culture, etc. which we find in the world.
- It does not lead to salvation.
- It keeps this earth from becoming a hell. It
prevents the complete effectuation of sin.
- Common grace is not capable of producing genuine conversion.
- Through the light of nature, through the workings of
conscience, and through the external presentation of the gospel, common grace makes known to man what he should do.
- These common influences of the Holy Spirit
can be resisted. They are foolishness to Jews and stumbling blocks to
Gentiles, without the illuminating power of the Holy Spirit.
- External righteousness (knowing God through
only these outward means) is no righteousness at all.
- As a conclusion, an old Jewish proverb says: "Take the
bitter tree and plant it in the garden of Eden and water it with the
waters there; and let the angel Gabriel be the gardener and the tree will
still bear bitter fruit."