Article 38

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What we Believe







One Smooth Stone

By Elder David Pyles

The doctrine of sovereign grace maintained by the Old School Baptists has been organized and presented in various ways, but the most common organization is the so-called five points of Calvinism. These are:

1) Total Depravity

2) Unconditional Election

3) Limited Atonement

4) Irresistible Grace

5) Perseverance

Total depravity asserts man cannot and will not recover himself from his fallen condition. Sometimes this doctrine is expressed by saying: "Man would not save himself if he could, and could not save himself if he would." Unconditional election implies God chose a people for salvation from the fallen mass of humanity, and this choice was not based upon any merit seen or foreseen in the elected. Limited atonement implies Christ died only for the elect. Irresistible grace asserts all the elect will be born again by the will and power of God at some point in their natural lives. Perseverance implies all who are born again will remain in this blessed state forever; hence, all of the elect will finally be saved.

In actuality, this doctrine did not originate with John Calvin, nor did Calvin organize it into these five points. We believe this doctrine originated with Christ and the Apostles, and it is a matter of historic record that it was advocated by the ancient Waldenses of Europe, the early English Baptists, and most Baptists of early America. Unfortunately, there are relatively few who hold this doctrine today. Even Baptists have generally abandoned all points but the fifth.

The popular doctrine of modern times is Arminianism. This doctrine denies all of the above points. It claims Christ died for the salvation of all men; that all men have sufficient ability to receive or reject the offer of grace, and that those possessing this grace may relinquish it if they fail to comply with conditions for salvation.

Calvinism is sometimes charged by Arminians as being a doctrine which potentially sends good people to hell and evil people to heaven. This accusation indicates a failure to properly understand the doctrine. Calvinism advocates none are good of themselves, and if there be any spiritual good in a man, then this is because he is a recipient of the electing grace of God. Accordingly, Calvinism maintains that those who believe Christ and His word, and who endeavor to keep His commandments, prove by their beliefs and actions they are the elect of God.

But the greatest objection Arminians make against Calvinism is their claim that its doctrines of election and limited atonement compromise the love of God. This accusations is also unreasonable. Scriptural teachings about the love of God offer the strongest reasons to accept the doctrine of grace as being true. Indeed, we may establish every point of this doctrine with one simple truth about the love of God. This truth is expressed in one blessed text:

The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee. - Jer 31:3

Jeremiah asserts the love of God is everlasting. It changes not. It is part of His immutable being. His love was under consideration in texts such as:

Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. - Is 49:15

For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed. - Mal 3:6

Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever. - Heb 13:8

Now let us consider the logical conclusions demanded by this blessed principle. If we take as given certain points which are generally uncontroverted among the vast majority of Christians, then the unchangeableness of God's love implies every point of sovereign grace. This follows because:

If God's love is unchangeable and everlasting, then it follows that if He ever loved a man to such extent that He would die for his salvation, then God will continue to love this man to precisely the same extent even after the world is destroyed. This renders the eternal condemnation of any loved by God an absolute impossibility, thereby confirming point five (perseverance).

If some men will be eternally punished, then these cannot be loved with an everlasting love. Hence, God's everlasting love embraces less than the entire human race. Hence, point two (election).

If Christ died for those He loved, and if this love is an everlasting love, we must conclude that since the condemned cannot be loved with an everlasting love, then neither did Christ die for them. This establishes point three (limited atonement).

If the new birth is necessary for entrance to heaven, and if all under God's everlasting love will certainly go to heaven, then all under this love must surely be born again. Hence, point four (irresistible grace).

If none go to heaven apart from those Christ loves, and if God would not arbitrarily send any man to hell, then what recourse do we have but to conclude point one (total depravity)?

Hence, it is not truly necessary that we cast all five points of Calvinism at the Arminian Goliath. He is utterly destroyed by one smooth stone; namely, the unsearchable and unchangeable love of God. And it is with some degree of irony that under the impact of this stone, the giant falls headlong into the very pit which he had digged for the doctrine of grace; namely, his accusation that this doctrine compromises the love of God. May he rest in peace. May all believers rejoice in God's everlasting love, and continuously heed the admonitions of Paul:

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. - Rom 12:1,2

Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say,

The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me. - Heb 13:5,6

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