“Dr. Steve Lawson is one of the most committed and capable biblical expositors of this generation. The intensity and clarity of his commitment to biblical preaching—to true expository preaching—is the hallmark of his ministry. Beyond this, Steve Lawson understands that the text of the Bible presents a consistent witness to God’s sovereignty and the panoramic display of God’s glory. All this is evident in his preaching ministry and in his writing ministry as well. Dr. Lawson is a remarkable man driven by a remarkable passion.” — Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., President The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
“Faithful pastor Steve Lawson, in Foundations of Grace, traverses the rich and varied terrain of the Bible to introduce you to the one true God and his sovereign saving love from the whole of Scripture, in ways that you may never have fully appreciated before. The doctrines of grace and the sovereignty of God are joy-giving, life-changing, Christ-exalting, God-glorifying, missions-motivating, evangelismencouraging, and discipleship-promoting truths. If you think that the teaching of God’s sovereignty in sinners’ salvation is a man-made idea, you’ll think again after you’ve walked through the Bible with Dr. Lawson. But beware, this truth, when understood and embraced, is soul-transforming, heart-animating, and life-altering. Dr. Lawson himself is a man changed by this truth. He has boldly and bravely and gladly proclaimed it, at great personal cost, but much to the glory of God, the good of the church, and the joy of sinners who have been found by the amazing grace of God. Prepare to delight in the lovingkindness of the Lord, which lasts forever!” — Dr. J. Ligon Duncan III, Senior Minister First Presbyterian Church, Jackson, Miss.
“The doctrines of grace are often misunderstood and mischaracterized. This helpful new book explains them thoughtfully and well. May God use it for His glory and others’ good.” — Dr. D. James Kennedy, Late Senior Minister Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.
“We live in an age in which the church has once again fallen under Martin Luther’s sharp critique of his contemporary, Erasmus: ‘Your God is too man-like. . . . Let God be God!’ Gripped in mind and heart by the twin truths of God’s total sovereignty and His amazing grace, Steve Lawson compellingly traces these themes from the beginning to the end of Scripture. There is no better way than this to learn theology, and no other way to learn to hold the truth of Scripture with the balance of Scripture and in the spirit of Scripture. Foundations of Grace shows, in a multitude of ways, that the Scriptures are useful ‘for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness.’ May it help the contemporary church to rediscover that glorious divine quadrivium!” — Dr. Sinclair B. Ferguson, Senior Pastor First Presbyterian Church, Columbia, S.C.
“Steven Lawson clearly and comprehensively lays the scriptural groundwork for the doctrines of grace.” — Dr. John MacArthur, Pastor-Teacher Grace Community Church, Sun Valley, Calif. (from his foreword)
“As Dr. Steve Lawson’s reconnaissance of this matter so clearly shows, God’s sovereignty is manifest throughout sacred Scripture. . . . When you finish reading this book, I would wonder and worry if you continue to persist in denying the full measure of God’s sovereignty in our salvation. Dr. Lawson has shown so clearly and conclusively that salvation is of the Lord and of His sovereign grace that he dusted off the spot where the opponents of this doctrine once stood. I, for one, am grateful for this labor of love, and for the elucidation and hope that those who read it will take to heart.” — Dr. R.C. Sproul, Minister of Preaching and Teaching Saint Andrew’s Chapel, Sanford, Fla. (from his afterword)
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A DI V ISION OF LIG ONIER MINIST R IES • OR L A N DO, FLOR IDA
Foundations of Grace © 2006 by Steven J. Lawson Published by Reformation Trust Publishing a division of Ligonier Ministries 421 Ligonier Court, Sanford, FL 32771 www.ligonier.org www.reformationtrust.com Printed in Crawfordsville, Indiana RR Donnelley and Sons June 2011 First edition, fourth printing All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or otherwise—without the prior written permission of the publisher, Reformation Trust Publishing. The only exception is brief quotations in published reviews. Cover design: Chris Larson Interior design and typeset: Katherine Lloyd, The DESK Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Lawson, Steven J. Foundations of grace / by Steven J. Lawson. p. cm. -- (A long line of godly men ; v. 1) Includes index. ISBN 1-56769-077-7 1. Grace--Biblical teaching. 2. Grace (Theology) 3. Reformed Church--Doctrines. 4. Calvinism. 5. Bible--Criticism, interpretation, etc. 6. Men in the Bible. I. Title. BS680.G7L39 2006 234--dc22 2006022432
To the memory of Dr. S. Lewis Johnson —distinguished professor, eminent theologian, precise expositor— who shocked my world with the doctrines of grace. During my formative years, Dr. Johnson faithfully preached the Word of God—and, specifically, the doctrines of grace—at Believer’s Chapel in Dallas, Texas. Although I initially resisted these truths, the Lord graciously prevailed and opened my eyes to His glorious sovereignty in the salvation of lost sinners. Sunday by Sunday, Dr. Johnson brought masterful exposition of the Scriptures with theological precision. My view of everything was dramatically changed, and I have never been the same. I shall always be grateful to Dr. Johnson for his clear and compelling preaching about our sovereign God.
“For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:36, NASB)
Foreword By John MacArthur. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 Divine Immutability and the Doctrines of Grace Preface. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21 The Continental Divide of Theology Acknowledgments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25 1. A Long Line of Godly Men. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27 Servants of Sovereign Grace: From Moses to the Present 2. Where The Long Line Begins . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45 The Lawgiver Moses: Genesis 3. Sovereign Grace In The Wilderness. . . . . . . . . . . . . 73 The Lawgiver Moses: Exodus to Deuteronomy 4. Strong Men With A Strong Message . . . . . . . . . . . 103 Early Leaders: Joshua to Job 5. Monarchs Bow Before the Sovereign. . . . . . . . . . 133 Kings David and Solomon: Psalms, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes 6. Spokesman of Sovereign Grace . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 165 The Major Prophets: Isaiah 7. Heralds of Divine Regeneration. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 187 The Major Prophets: Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel 8. Major Theology From Minor Prophets . . . . . . . 217 The Minor Prophets: Hosea to Malachi
9. The Greatest Expositor of Grace . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 241 The Lord Jesus Christ: Matthew, Mark, and Luke 10. The Mount Everest of Theology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 271 The Lord Jesus Christ: The Gospel of John 11. How Firm A Foundation. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 307 The Apostle Peter: Acts and 1 & 2 Peter 12. By His Grace And For His Glory. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 341 The Apostle Paul: Romans 13. Preacher of the Doctrines of Grace. . . . . . . . . . 381 The Apostle Paul: 1 & 2 Corinthians and Galatians 14. Before the Foundation of the World. . . . . . . . . 411 The Apostle Paul: Ephesians to 2 Thessalonians 15. The Pillar and Support of the Truth . . . . . . . . . 445 The Apostle Paul: 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus 16. Evangelism and Divine Sovereignty. . . . . . . . . . . . 467 The Physician Luke and the Author of Hebrews: Acts and Hebrews 17. Sovereign Regeneration. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 497 James, the Apostle John, and Jude: James, 1, 2, & 3 John, and Jude 18. Throughout All the Ages To Come. . . . . . . . . . . . 531 The Apostle John: The Gospel of John and Revelation Afterword by r.c. sproul. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 563 Manifest Sovereignty Scripture index. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 565
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he Bible repeatedly and unapologetically underscores the fact that God does not change. In fact, He cannot change because He cannot improve on absolute perfection or decline in His eternally fixed nature. His person does not change: “‘For I the Lord do not change’” (Mal. 3:6). His plans do not change: “The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations” (Ps. 33:11). His purpose does not change: “So when God desired to show more convincingly . . . the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath” (Heb. 6:17). God does not change His mind: “‘The Glory of Israel will not lie or have regret, for he is not a man, that he should have regret’” (1 Sam. 15:29); or His words: “The Holy One of Israel . . . does not call back his words” (Isa. 31:1–2); or His calling: “The gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Rom. 11:29; cf. Heb. 13:8; James 1:17). There are absolutely no changes in God, no variations, and no surprises (cf. Ps. 102:27). God does not increase or decrease. He does not improve or decline. He does not change due to some altered circumstances—there are no unforeseen emergencies to the One who is eternally all-knowing. His eternal purposes stand forever because He stands forever (Ps. 33:11). He does not react, He only acts—and He does so however He pleases (Ps. 115:3). From a human perspective, of course, God sometimes appears to change His plans or His actions based on what people do. But this is not so from God’s viewpoint. Because He knows and always has known the future perfectly, having planned it according to His unalterable decree, He always acts in the way that He planned to act from eternity past. While men do not know how God will act, and are sometimes astonished as they see His sovereign plans unfold, God is never surprised. He continues to work as He always has, according to His eternal purpose and good pleasure (cf. Ps. 33:10–12; Isa. 48:14; Dan. 4:35; Col. 1:19–20). 7
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With respect to mankind, God predetermined to redeem a people for His own glory. Nothing can thwart that plan (John 10:29; Rom. 8:38–39). Perfect knowledge, perfect uninfluenced freedom, and perfect limitless power to accomplish all He perfectly willed—absolute holiness and moral perfection binding Him to be truthful and faithful to His Word—mean that what God set out to do before time began, He is doing and will complete after time is gone. This sweeping, glorious intention of God has been revealed in the Bible and understood clearly through the history of the redeemed. The Word of God has disclosed it unmistakably, and since the completion of the canon of Scripture, all accurate interpreters of the Bible have believed and proclaimed the God-glorifying doctrine of sovereign, unchanging divine purpose. This truth, often called the doctrines of grace, began in the sovereign determination of God in eternity past. God cannot change, His Word cannot change, and His purpose cannot change. His truth is the same because He is the Truth (cf. Ps. 119:160; John 17:17; Titus 1:2; Heb. 6:18). In contrast to the so-called Openness of God theology, which claims that God does not know the future and therefore must adapt to circumstances as they unfold, the Bible presents God as the all-knowing Sovereign of all events, past, present, and future. In the words of Isaiah 46:9b–10: I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, “My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.”
Divine Justice and the Doctrine of Election In spite of the clarity with which Scripture addresses this topic, many professing Christians today struggle with acceptance of God’s sovereignty—especially when it comes to His electing work in salvation. Their most common protest, of course, is that the doctrine of election is unfair. But such an objection stems from a human idea of fairness rather than the objective, divine understanding of true justice. In order to appropriately address the issue of election, we must set aside all human considerations and focus on the nature of God and His righteous standard. Divine justice is where the discussion must begin.
What is divine justice? Simply stated, it is an essential attribute of God whereby He infinitely, perfectly, and independently does exactly what He wants to do when and how He wants to do it. Because He is the standard of justice, by very definition, whatever He does is inherently just. As William Perkins said, many years ago, “We must not think that God doeth a thing because it is good and right, but rather is the thing good and right because God willeth it and worketh it.” Therefore, God defines for us what justice is, because He is by nature just and righteous, and what He does reflects that nature. His free will—and nothing else—is behind His justice. This means that whatever He wills is just; and it is just, not because of any external standard of justice, but simply because He wills it. Because the justice of God is an outflow of His character, it is not subject to fallen human assumptions of what justice should be. The Creator owes nothing to the creature, not even what He is graciously pleased to give. God does not act out of obligation and compulsion, but out of His own independent prerogative. That is what it means to be God. And because He is God, His freely determined actions are intrinsically right and perfect. To say that election is unfair is not only inaccurate, it fails to recognize the very essence of true fairness. That which is fair, right, and just is that which God wills to do. Thus, if God wills to choose those whom He will save, it is inherently fair for Him to do so. We cannot impose our own ideas of fairness onto our understanding of God’s working. Instead, we must go to the Scriptures to see how God Himself, in His perfect righteousness, decides to act.
What Is the Doctrine of Election? The idea that God does what He wants, and that what He does is true and right because He does it, is foundational to our understanding of everything in Scripture, including the doctrine of election. In the broad sense, election refers to the fact that God chooses (or elects) to do everything that He does in whatever way He sees fit. When He acts, He does so only because He willfully and independently chooses to act. According to His own nature, predetermined plan, and good pleasure, He decides to do whatever He desires, without pressure or constraint from any outside influence. The Bible makes this point repeatedly. In the act of Creation, God made precisely what He wanted to create in the way He wanted to create it (cf. Gen. 1:31). And ever since Creation, He has sovereignly prescribed or permitted
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everything in human history, in order that He might accomplish the redemptive plan that He previously had designed (cf. Isa. 25:1; 46:10; 55:11; Rom. 9:17; Eph. 3:8–11). In the Old Testament, He chose a nation for Himself. Out of all the nations in the world, He selected Israel (Deut. 7:6; 14:2; Pss. 105:43; 135:4). He chose the Israelites not because they were better or more desirable than any other people, but simply because He decided to choose them. In the words of Richard Wolf, “How odd of God to choose the Jews.” It might not have rhymed as well, but the same would have been true of any other people God might have selected. God chooses whomever He chooses for reasons that are wholly His. The nation of Israel was not the only recipient in Scripture of God’s electing choice. In the New Testament, Jesus Christ is called “‘My Chosen One’” (Luke 9:35). The holy angels also are referred to as “elect angels” (1 Tim. 5:21). And New Testament believers are called “God’s chosen ones” (Col. 3:12; cf. 1 Cor. 1:27; 2 Thess. 2:13; 2 Tim. 2:10; Titus 1:1; 1 Peter 1:1; 2:9; 5:13; Rev. 17:14), meaning that the church is a community of those who were chosen, or “elect” (Eph. 1:4). When Jesus told His disciples, “‘You did not choose me, but I chose you’” (John 15:16), He was underscoring this truth. And the New Testament reiterates it in passage after passage. Acts 13:48b describes salvation in these words: “As many as were appointed to eternal life believed.” Ephesians 1:4–6 notes that God “chose us in [Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.” In his letters to the Thessalonians, Paul reminds his readers that he knew God’s choice of them (1 Thess. 1:4) and that he was thankful for them “because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved” (2 Thess. 2:13). The Word of God is clear: believers are those whom God chose for salvation from before the beginning. The foreknowledge to which Peter refers (1 Peter 1:2) should not be confused with simple foresight. Some teach this view, contending that God, in eternity past, looked down the halls of history to see who would respond to His call and then elected the redeemed on the basis of their response. Such an explanation makes God’s decision subject to man’s decision, and gives man a level of sovereignty that belongs only to God. It makes God the One who is passively chosen rather than the One who actively chooses. And it misunder-
stands the way in which Peter uses the term foreknowledge. In 1 Peter 1:20, the apostle uses the verb form of that word, prognosis in the Greek, to refer to Christ. In that case, the concept of “foreknowledge” certainly includes the idea of a deliberate choice. It is reasonable, then, to conclude that the same is true when Peter applies prognosis to believers in other places (cf. 1 Peter 1:2). The ninth chapter of Romans also reiterates the elective purposes of God. There, God’s electing prerogative is clearly displayed in reference to His saving love for Jacob (and Jacob’s descendants) as opposed to Esau (and Esau’s lineage). God chose Jacob over Esau, not on the basis of anything Jacob or Esau had done, but according to His own free and uninfluenced sovereign purpose. To those who might protest, “That is unfair!” Paul simply asks, “Who are you, O man, to answer back to God?” (v. 20). Many more Scripture passages could be added to this survey. Yet as straightforward as the Word of God is, people continually have difficulty accepting the doctrine of election. The reason, again, is that they allow their preconceived notions of how God should act (based on a human definition of fairness) to override the truth of His sovereignty as laid out in the Scriptures. Frankly, the only reason to believe in election is because it is found explicitly in God’s Word. No man and no committee of men originated this doctrine. It is like the doctrine of eternal punishment in that it conflicts with the dictates of the carnal mind. It is repugnant to the sentiments of the unregenerate heart. Like the doctrine of the Holy Trinity and the miraculous birth of our Savior, the truth of election, because it has been revealed by God, must be embraced with simple and unquestioning faith. If you have a Bible and you believe it, you have no option but to accept what it teaches. The Word of God presents God as the controller and disposer of all creatures (Dan. 4:35; Isa. 45:7; Lam. 3:38), the Most High (Pss. 47:2; 83:18), the ruler of heaven and earth (Gen. 14:19; Isa. 37:16), and the One against whom none can stand (2 Chron. 20:6; Job 41:10; Isa. 43:13). He is the Almighty who works all things after the counsel of His will (Eph. 1:11; cf. Isa. 14:27; Rev. 19:6) and the heavenly Potter who shapes men according to His own good pleasure (Rom. 9:18–22). In short, He is the decider and determiner of every man’s destiny, and the controller of every detail in each individual’s life (Prov. 16:9; 19:21; 21:1; cf. Ex. 3:21–22; 14:8; Ezra 1:1; Dan. 1:9; James 4:15)—which is really just another way of saying, “He is God.”
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Why Did God Determine to Elect the Redeemed? Though the doctrine of election applies to all that God does in a general sense, it most often refers, in a specific New Testament sense, to the election of sinners to become redeemed saints within the church. Divine election, in this particular regard, speaks of God’s independent and predetermined choice of those whom He would save and place into the corporate body of Christ. God did not save certain sinners because they chose Him, but because He chose them. But why did God do this? Why did He sovereignly determine, from eternity past, to save a segment of fallen humanity that would make up a community of the redeemed? In order to answer this question without wrongly interjecting our own preconceived notions, we must turn to the Word of God, for it is there that God has revealed His mind to us. Of course, as fallen human beings, we will never be able to fully comprehend the infinite wisdom of God in this regard (cf. Rom. 11:33–36). Nonetheless, the Scriptures give us several glimpses into the divine motivation behind election. Why, then, did God choose to save sinners?
Divine Election and the Promise of God The answer begins with the promise of God. In Titus 1:1–2 we read: “Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began.” In these verses the apostle Paul succinctly defines the fullness of salvation and ties it directly to the eternal promise of God. Salvation in its fullness consists of three primary parts—justification (the sinner’s salvation at the moment of conversion from the penalty of sin through the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ), sanctification (the sinner’s ongoing salvation from the power of sin in this life), and glorification (the sinner’s ultimate, complete salvation from the presence of sin in the life to come). As a minister of the gospel, Paul emphasized each of these aspects in his ministry. Because he understood justification, he preached the gospel “for the sake of the faith of God’s elect,” realizing that through the preaching of the truth, God would justify those whom He had chosen to save (cf. Rom. 10:14–15). Because he understood progressive sanctification, Paul sought to strengthen those who already had embraced the truth, edifying them through “their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness.” And because he understood glorification, Paul passionately reminded those under his care
about the “hope of eternal life”—the climactic consummation of their salvation in Christ. Paul preached the gospel of Christ with great clarity so the elect could hear and believe. When they believed, he taught them the truth so they could become godly; and he also unfolded for them the hope of eternal life, which gave them the encouragement and motivation they needed for faithful living. Having summarized salvation in three brief phrases, Paul ends verse 2 with these words: “which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began.” The apostle’s point is that the whole unfolding miracle of salvation, which culminates in eternal life, is based on the absolute promise of our trustworthy God. The fact that God cannot lie is self-evident as well as scripturally attested (cf. Num. 23:19; 1 Sam. 15:29; John 14:6, 17; 15:26). In fact, because God is the source and measure of all truth, it is, by definition, “impossible for God to lie” (Heb. 6:18). Just as the Devil speaks lies “‘out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies’” (John 8:44), so it is that whenever God speaks, He speaks the truth from His own nature, because He is the Father of truth. This God of truth, who is the one true God, promised long ages ago that those whom He had chosen to be justified and sanctified in this life would certainly be glorified in the life to come. But the English phrase before the ages began does not simply refer to ancient human history. It is literally translated “before time began,” and it means exactly that. To be sure, God reiterated His plan of salvation and eternal life to such godly men as Abraham, Moses, David, and the prophets, but the original promise was made and ratified in eternity past (cf. Eph. 1:4–5; Heb. 13:20). It was before time began that He chose those who would embrace the faith (Titus 1:1) and promised to save them for all eternity (1:2). But to whom did God make this promise? If He made it before time began, then it could not have been made to any human being, or to any created being for that matter. Before the creation of time, nothing existed outside of God Himself. To whom, then, did He make this promise?
Divine Election and the Love of the Father Second Timothy 1:9 introduces us to the answer. Speaking of God, the verse says that He “saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began.” The phrase before the ages began is the English translation of the same Greek phrase rendered with the same words in Titus
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1:2. Here, too, it literally means “before time began.” In eternity past, before the dawn of history, God made the irrevocable decision to grant salvation to the redeemed. This is the promise of Titus 1:2, and it is a promise that God made according to His own independent purpose and grace. Put simply, it was a promise He made to Himself. More specifically, as we will see, it involved a promise from the Father to the Son. The plan of God from eternity past was to redeem a segment of fallen humanity through the work of the Son and for the glory of the Son (cf. 2 Tim. 4:18). There was a moment in eternity past (if we might so feebly speak of eternity in temporal terms) when the Father desired to express His perfect and incomprehensible love for the Son. To do this, He chose to give to the Son a redeemed humanity as a love gift—a company of men and women whose purpose would be, throughout all the eons of eternity, to praise and glorify the Son, and to serve Him perfectly. Angels alone would not suffice in this regard, as there are characteristics of the Son for which angels cannot properly praise Him, since they have never experienced redemption. But a redeemed humanity, as the direct recipients of His unmerited favor, would stand forever as an eternal testament to the infinite greatness of His mercy and grace. The Father therefore determined to give the Son a redeemed humanity as a visible expression of His infinite love. In so doing, He selected all those who would make up that redeemed humanity and wrote their names in the book of life before the world began (Rev. 13:8; 17:8). His gift to the Son is composed of those whose names are in that book—a joyous congregation of undeserving saints who will praise and serve the Son forever. The gospel of John makes this wonderful reality all the more clear. In John 6, for instance, Jesus plainly states that believers are a gift to Him from His Father. He tells His listeners, “‘All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out’” (v. 37). And later, “‘No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him’” (v. 44). In other words, the Father draws sinners in order that He might lovingly present them to the Son. All those who are drawn, come. All who come, the Son receives and embraces. They will never be turned away because the Son would never refuse those who are a gift from the Father. Salvation, then, does not come to sinners because they are inherently desirable, but because the Son is inherently worthy of the Father’s gift. After all, the purpose of redemption is that the Son might be eternally exalted by the redeemed—it is not for the honor of the sinner but the honor of the Son. And
in response to the Father’s love, the Son eagerly accepts those who are drawn, wholly because they are a gift from the Father whom He loves. It is His perfect gratitude that opens His arms to embrace the lost. In verse 39, Jesus says that what was promised by the Father is protected by the Son: “‘This is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.’” When the Son receives those whom the Father draws, He keeps them safe, ensuring that they will be resurrected one day to everlasting life (cf. John 5:29). When the Son raises those who will worship Him eternally, He will fulfill the plan that God purposed in eternity past. As Jesus says in verse 38, “‘I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will [not to fulfill some plan of my own] but the will of him who sent me.’” That plan, as the Lord explains in verse 39, encompasses the future resurrection of all whom the Father has given Him. Without question, the doctrine of eternal security is inherent in this discussion because it is built into the plan. Christ protects those whom the Father has chosen. He will never lose any of them because they are love gifts to Him from the Father. They are precious, not because of their inherent loveliness, but because of the loveliness of the One who gave them. Therefore, the Son keeps them secure, which is why “neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38–39). This profound truth is reiterated in John 17. With the cross only a few hours away, Jesus knew that He was about to experience a period of separation from the Father (cf. Matt. 27:46) in which He would bear the wrath of God for sin (cf. Isa. 53:10; 2 Cor. 5:21). Recognizing that He would not be able to protect His own in that moment, He entrusted their safekeeping to the very One who had given them to Him. In verses 9–15, Jesus beseeches His Father with these words: I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost
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except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. In the context, Jesus is praying for His own who are in the world. He acknowledges that the redeemed are those whom the Father has given to Him, and He reiterates that He has been faithful in protecting and preserving them. But now, as He comes to the cross, He asks the Father to protect them in the moment when He will be unable to do so. In the one instance in all of redemptive history when there might be potential for the evil one to interrupt the plan, the Son entrusts the redeemed to the watchful and loving care of His Father. As Jesus had earlier stated, “‘My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand’” (John 10:29). The Son was confident that His own would be safe in the impenetrable grip of His Father. In verse 24, Jesus goes on to pray: “‘Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.’” Here the glorious point of the Father’s love gift to the Son is unmistakable—that the Son’s magnificent glory might be extolled and exalted by the redeemed. The Father’s motivation in giving such a gift is also clear—that He might evidence the love that He had had for the Son from before the world was created. Clearly, there is an acute sense in which the doctrine of election is far beyond our finite capabilities to comprehend. We are caught up in intra-Trinitarian expressions of love that are unfathomable and inexpressible. And we are repeatedly reminded, as we are given small glimpses into the divine purpose behind election, that salvation is about something far greater than our own happiness. In Romans 8:29–30, we are given another inspired window into this immeasurable reality. Paul writes, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” Though much could be said about these verses, two points are of primary importance in regard to the doctrine of election. First,
when God predestined us by His elective purpose, He did not merely predestine us to the beginning of our salvation, He predestined us to the end of it. We were not chosen just to be justified. We were chosen to be glorified. Paul’s wording could not be more straightforward. What God started in election continues through calling and justification, and inevitably will result in glorification. The process, which is God’s process, is fail-proof because He is the One behind it. Second, not only is God saving a chosen, redeemed humanity that will glorify and serve the Son forever, He is making them like the Son. The redeemed in Christ will be conformed to His image, which is something that will not fully and finally take place until glorification (1 John 3:2; Phil. 3:20–21). It has been rightly said that imitation is the highest form of praise, for this will be the supreme tribute to the Son—He will be the Chief One among many who have been made like Him. They will reflect His goodness, because they will be like Him, and they will proclaim His greatness as they worship Him unceasingly for eternity.
Divine Election and the Role of the Son In 1 Corinthians 15:25–28, we find a remarkable conclusion to this whole discussion. There Paul says, “For he [Christ] must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For ‘God has put all things in subjection under his feet.’ But when it says, ‘all things are put in subjection,’ it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.” Referring to the end of the age, this passage reveals that there will come a day when Christ, the King of Kings, will take His rightful throne and reclaim the universe that is His. At that time, everything will be put into subjection to Him, including death, and all of the redeemed will be gathered into glory, rejoicing in the fullness of eternal worship. When all that is done, “then the Son himself also will be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him [meaning the Father], that God may be all in all.” In other words, when the whole love gift of a redeemed humanity has been given to Jesus Christ, then He will take that redeemed humanity and, including Himself, give it all back to the Father as a reciprocal expression of the Father’s infinite love. At that moment, the redemptive purposes of God will be fully realized.
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The doctrine of election, then, is at the very heart of redemptive history. It is not some insignificant, esoteric doctrine that can be trivialized or relegated to seminary classroom debates. Rather, it is at the center of how we understand salvation and the church. It informs our evangelism, our preaching, and our identity as the body of Christ. It also helps us understand why Christ takes His bride, the church, so seriously—she is His love gift from the Father. The church is so precious to Him that He was willing to endure great trials and eventually death to receive the gift. “Though he [the Son] was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9; cf. Phil 2:5–11). He left infinite spiritual riches in order that His elect might inherit those same riches (cf. Rom. 8:17). He embraced the most profound poverty possible, divesting Himself of His heavenly comforts and the independent use of His divine attributes, choosing to embrace the penalty of sin through His sacrifice on the cross. As Paul explains, “He [the Father] made him [the Son] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). Jesus was guilty of nothing. Yet on the cross, the Father treated Him as if He had committed personally every sin ever committed by every individual who would ever believe. Though He was blameless, He faced the full fury of God’s wrath, enduring the penalty of sin on behalf of those He came to save. In this way, the sinless Son of God became the perfect substitute for the sinful sons of men. As a result of Christ’s sacrifice, the elect become the righteousness of God in Him. In the same way that the Father treated the Son as a sinner, even though the Son was sinless, the Father now treats believers as righteous, even though they were unrighteous. Jesus exchanged His life for sinners in order to fulfill the elective plan of God. And He did it so that, in the end, He might give back to the Father the love gift that the Father gave to Him. In contemplating these truths, we find ourselves catapulted into the immeasurable depths of the plans and purposes of God. As Paul exclaimed in Romans 11:33–36: Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?”
“Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen. Awestruck and amazed, those who love God can only respond in heartfelt worship and humble submission. They must praise Him for His mercy, His grace, and His glorious purpose that planned it all from before time began. And they must submit themselves to His sovereignty, not only in the universe at large, but also in the smallest details of their daily lives. Such is their role as part of the love gift from the Father to the Son. To worship and to serve is what they were intended to do from eternity past. And it is what they will continue to do perfectly in the ineffable joy of eternal glory. The reality, then, is that believers are simply a small part of a much larger divine plan. The Father, because of His love for the Son, determined before time began to choose a redeemed community that would praise the Son for all eternity. And the Son, because of His love for the Father, accepted this lovegift from the Father, considering it precious to the point that He gave His life for it. The Son protects those whom the Father chose to give Him, and promises to bring them to glory according to the predetermined plan of God.
The Long Line of Godly Men History is the unfolding of this plan of God—as those whom He chose are called, justified, and glorified through the Person and work of the Son. History began when God created time and space according to His eternal redemptive plan. And it will end when all of His purposes for His creation are accomplished according to that same eternal plan. Not surprisingly, God’s servants throughout history have understood and embraced this reality. From Moses to the present, there truly has been a long line of godly men who have demonstrated this certainty in both their words and their lives. These servants of God are our human heroes of the faith. But it is not their inherent greatness that we applaud. Rather it is the greatness and glory of their sovereign God, as reflected in their lives and their teachings, that is so compelling. The theme of these volumes, then, is the unchanging character and faithfulness of God in the doctrines of grace. In Volume One, Steven Lawson clearly and comprehensively lays the scriptural groundwork for the doctrines of grace. This volume provides the biblical basis for all that follows. Volumes Two through Five stand like pillars
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on that firm foundation—recording the echoes of divine revelation throughout church history. Throughout the work, it becomes quickly apparent that the writers of Scripture, and the interpreters of Scripture who followed them, upheld and taught the same changeless dogmas that constitute divine sovereign salvation. As you read the accounts of these godly men, you will be amazed, not at their talent, ability, or unique circumstances, but at their consistency in practicing and proclaiming the same divine truth of the doctrines of grace. Thus, A Long Line of Godly Men is not primarily about men at all, but rather about the God to whom the lives of these men testify. Though godly men come and go, as any survey of history makes clear, the God who spoke through those men never changes, and neither does His message. And that is what makes Lawson’s work so rich and edifying. The God of Moses, the God of Peter, the God of Chrysostom, the God of Luther, the God of Edwards, the God of Spurgeon, and the God whom we serve today commands us to proclaim the unchanging truths laid down in the past. The immutability of God and the eternality of His truths, particularly the doctrine of sovereign election, form the cornerstone of this history. —John MacArthur Los Angeles, 2006
The Continental Divide of theology
hrough the western regions of North America, there runs an imaginary geographic line that determines the flow of streams into oceans. It is known as the Continental Divide. Ultimately, precipitation falling on the east side of this great divide will flow into the Atlantic Ocean. Likewise, water falling on the western slopes of this line will surge in the opposite direction until it finally empties into the Pacific Ocean. Needless to say, a vast continent separates these immense bodies of water. It is seemingly far-fetched to ponder that a raindrop falling atop a mountain in Colorado will flow to the Pacific, while another drop, falling but a short distance away, will flow into the Atlantic. Nevertheless, once the water pours down on a particular side of this great divide, its path is determined and its direction is unchangeable. Geography is not the only place we find a great divide. There is a high ground that runs through church history as wellâ€”a Continental Divide of theology. This great divide of doctrine separates two distinctly different streams of thought that flow in opposite directions. To be specific, this determinative high ground is oneâ€™s theology of God, man, and salvation. This is the highest of all thought, and it divides all doctrine into two schools. Historically, these two ways of thinking about God and His saving grace have been called by various names. Some have identified them as Augustinianism and Pelagianism. Others have named them Calvinism and Arminianism. Still others have defined them as Reformed and Catholic, while others have used the terms predestination and free will. But by whatever name, these streams are determined by the Continental Divide of theology. This metaphorical divide differs from the geographical Continental Divide in one key respect. Whereas streams flowing west and east of the Rocky Mountains descend gradually to the plains and lowlands where they meet the oceans, the terrain on the two sides of the doctrinal divide is quite different. On one 21
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side we find solid highlands of truth. On the other side there are precipitous slopes of half-truths and full error. Over the centuries, seasons of reformation and revival in the church have come when the sovereign grace of God has been openly proclaimed and clearly taught. When a high view of God has been infused into the hearts and minds of God’s people, the church has sat on the elevated plateaus of transcendent truth. This lofty ground is Calvinism—the high ground for the church. The lofty truths of divine sovereignty provide the greatest and grandest view of God. The doctrines of grace serve to elevate the entire life of the church. The great Prince ton theologian Benjamin Breckenridge Warfield, writing more than a century ago, perceptively noted, “The world should realize with increased clearness that Evangelicalism stands or falls with Calvinism.”1 At first glance, this stunning statement may appear to be an exaggeration, even hyperbole. But the more it is weighed, the more one discerns that evangelicalism—that part of the body of Christ that rightly adheres to the inerrancy of Scripture, the total depravity of man, and the sovereignty of God in all aspects of life—always needs the doctrines of sovereign grace to anchor it to the high ground. For without the theological teachings of Reformed truth concerning God’s sovereignty in man’s salvation, the church is weakened and made vulnerable, soon to begin an inevitable decline into baser beliefs, whether she realizes it or not. Whenever the church becomes increasingly man-centered, she begins the downhill slide, often without recovery, and always to her detriment. Once yielding the high ground of Calvinism, a self-absorbed church puts its full weight onto the slippery slope of Arminianism, resulting in a loss of its foundational stability. Tragically, however, the descent rarely stops there. Historically, man-centered doctrine has served only as a catalyst for an even greater fall. Rappelling down the slippery slopes of Arminianism, one is soon to find the church sinking deeper and deeper into a murky quagmire of heretical ideas. Such a descent inevitably gives way to liberalism, the utter rejection of the absolute authority of Scripture. From liberalism—given enough time— the church always plunges yet lower into ecumenism, that deadly philosophy that embraces all religions as having some part of the truth. Continuing this downward spiral, the church plummets into universalism, the damning belief that all men eventually will be saved. Yet worse, universalism gives way to agnosticism, a degenerate view that one cannot even know whether there is a God. Finally, the church falls into the deepest abyss—the hellish flames of atheism, the belief that there is no God.
The presentation of the high truths of biblical Calvinism in this book is an attempt to re-establish the church’s firm footing upon the high ground she once held. The following chapters are strategically designed to secure her feet upon the apex of all God-centered truth, the doctrines of grace. In each section of Scripture, we will look at what historically have been identified as the five points of Calvinism: radical depravity, sovereign election, definite atonement, irresistible call, and preserving grace. We will examine virtually every biblical text teaching each of these principal doctrines and, in doing so, fortify our own convictions and consider their life-changing power for the believer. We will weigh carefully how they drastically elevate ministries, expand missions, and, subsequently, alter the course of history. Never has the need been greater for the truths of sovereign grace to be firmly established in the church. Her thinking about God desperately needs to be flowing in the right direction. As the church thinks, so she worships; and, as the church worships, so she lives, serves, and evangelizes. The church’s right view of God and the outworking of His grace gives shape to everything that is vital and important. The church must recapture her lofty vision of God and, thereby, be anchored to the solid rock of His absolute supremacy in all things. Only then will the church have a God-centered orientation in all matters of ministry. This, I believe, is the desperate need of the hour. Let us now embark upon this God-exalting, Christ-honoring pursuit. Ultimately, our view of God is at stake. It will affect everything. May we elevate Him in our hearts to the highest place, which belongs exclusively to Him. To God alone be the glory forever and ever. Amen. —Steven J. Lawson Mobile, 2006
B.B. Warfield, quoted in Arthur C. Custance, The Sovereignty of God (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed, 1979), 83–84.
want to express my deepest gratitude to Dr. John MacArthur. For twentyfive years, Dr. MacArthur has sharpened my mind and fed my soul through his God-centered exposition of the Scriptures. His foreword for this volume, “Divine Immutability and the Doctrines of Grace,” is, I believe, priceless. I also want to thank Dr. R. C. Sproul, whose personal influence upon my life has been profound. During the years of my doctoral study, I sat under his direct influence, and every class session is vividly etched upon my mind. That he contributed an afterword to this volume is humbling and gratifying. A special group of people helped make Foundations of Grace a reality. First, I must mention the men of Christ Fellowship Baptist Church, who met with me every Friday morning for an entire year to study the truths of these chapters. Their commitment to the doctrines of grace has greatly encouraged me. Tim Dick, the president of Ligonier Ministries, saw the value in these studies becoming the text of this book. It was also his vision to make this a five-book series that will trace the proclamation of these great doctrines throughout church history. Greg Bailey, the director of publications for Ligonier’s Reformation Trust imprint, lent his careful eye and skillful hand to the manuscript, enhancing its accuracy and readability. Chris Larson, the creative director for Ligonier, is responsible for the attractive graphics and appealing look of this book. My son, James Lawson, did considerable research for this book. Keith Phillips, Chuck Finster, Chris Barksdale, and Rick Holland and his students at The Master’s Seminary all made helpful contributions. Kay Allen, my executive assistant, played an especially significant role by typing this entire manuscript and coordinating everything from beginning to end. Most important, I want to thank my wife, Anne, and our four children, Andrew, James, Grace Anne, and John, for their unfailing love in supporting me in my preaching of these God-exalting truths. Soli Deo Gloria.
It is no novelty, then, that I am preaching; no new doctrine. I love to proclaim these strong old doctrines, that are called by
nickname CALVINISM, but which are surely and verily the revealed truth of God as it is in Christ Jesus. By this truth I make a pilgrimage into [the] past, and as I go, I see father after father, confessor after confessor, martyr after martyr, standing up to shake hands with me. . . . Taking these things to be the standard of my faith, I see the land of the ancients peopled with my brethren; I behold multitudes who confess the same as I do, and acknowledge that this is the religion of Godâ€™s own church.1
â€” Charles H. Spurgeon
A Long Line Of Godly Men Servants of Sovereign Grace: From Moses to the Present
eginning with the ancient prophet Moses and spanning the past thirtyfive hundred years to this present hour, there has marched onto the stage of human history a long line of godly men, men who have faithfully upheld the royal banner of the doctrines of grace in their generations. These standardbearers of the sovereignty of God’s grace form a noble procession that has remained unbroken and uninterrupted for millennia. They stand as one man— one in truth, one in the faith, one in the doctrines of grace. While differing in secondary areas of biblical understanding, they nevertheless have spoken with one voice in chief matters of doctrinal concern, namely, the supreme sovereignty by which God has appointed saving grace to undeserving, yet chosen, sinners. What is more, each man has appeared in history precisely at his God-appointed time and faithfully testified to God’s sovereignty in man’s salvation. Who are these great men of history? These are the most God-entranced preachers of their day, the most Word-saturated teachers of their hour, the men who, for the largest part, most marked their times for the glory of God. These are stalwarts of the faith, the sturdiest pillars of the church, the men who impacted nations and influenced continents for Christ, the men who sparked reformations and ignited spiritual awakenings. These are the valiant warriors of God’s kingdom, men who translated the Scriptures into the mother tongues of their people—and were burned at the stake for doing so. These are the men who founded biblically based denominations and launched gospelpropagating missions—men who left an eternal impact upon the life of the 27
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church. These are among the most esteemed pastors, distinguished theologians, and prolific authors of their generations. These are the most passionate evangelists, scholarly professors, and venerable presidents of Bible colleges and seminaries—men who have upheld the standard of sound words. These are the men who have championed the doctrines of grace. We witness them marching onto the stage of history, the world being their theatre and Scripture their rehearsed lines. Countless numbers of these men appeared during the most demanding moments in the divine script, in the days when the church was at its weakest. It was in such times that this long line of godly men grew most thin. Yet amid dark days of doctrinal error, these men remained faithful to God’s Word and stayed true to its message, even daring to march out of step with the theological cadence of the times. These resilient couriers of truth were, of sorts, the small hinges upon which the large doors of redemptive history turned, inevitably leading the church back into the rising sunlight of a bright tomorrow. Similarly, in the times of the church’s greatest reformations and spiritual revivals, these men stood resolutely at the forefront, heralding the glorious truth of God’s sovereignty in man’s salvation for all to hear. Century by century, this unbroken succession of spiritual stalwarts has increased its ranks to become a swelling parade—a long line of godly men, uninterrupted and intact.
A High View of God’s Sovereignty What is the distant drumbeat by which these men march? What compels them to move out and move forward for God in their generations? What drives them to capture their hours for Christ? What ignites their souls to burn with passion for Him and be the brightest torches of truth in their times? The answer is clear and compelling. To a man, they are overwhelmed by a high view of the sovereignty of God. With a transcendent and triumphant vision of God ruling supremely over all things, these men comprise an army of expositors and teachers, trumpeting the unrivaled reign of God over heaven and earth. This is what makes them so unusually great. It is that they preach and proclaim an infinitely great God, One who is great in holiness and great in sovereignty. Their greatness is not found in themselves, but in the One who has called them into His glorious employ. These are the men who believe that God is God, not merely in name but in living reality. These are the faithful messengers who hold fast to the core truth that God speaks and it is so. They proclaim that God purposes and it
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comes to pass. They declare that God calls and it happens. They herald that God plans and so does. There is no force that can resist Him, either in heaven, on earth, or under the earth. He pronounces the end from the beginning. His purpose will be infallibly established. Their message is founded on the unmistakably clear testimony of Scripture that God is sovereign over all things. To this end, the psalmists write: “The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples. The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations” (Ps. 33:10–11); “The Lord reigns; he is robed in majesty; the Lord is robed; he has put on strength as his belt. Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved. Your throne is established from of old; you are from everlasting” (Ps. 93:1–2); “The Lord has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all” (Ps. 103:19); “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases” (Ps. 115:3); and “Whatever the Lord pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps” (Ps. 135:6). Could anything be clearer? Whatever God wills, He does. The wisdom of Solomon resounds with this same inscrutable dominion of God. Solomon writes: “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand” (Prov. 19:21); “A man’s steps are from the Lord; how then can man understand his way” (Prov. 20:24); “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will” (Prov. 21:1); and “No wisdom, no understanding, no counsel can avail against the Lord. The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the Lord” (Prov. 21:30–31). The prophet Isaiah declared God’s unconditional sovereignty over all events, all circumstances, and all peoples. God Himself spoke through Isaiah, saying: “‘Also henceforth I am he; there is none who can deliver from my hand; I work, and who can turn it back?’” (Isa. 43:13); “‘I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, “My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.”. . . I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it’” (Isa. 46:9–11); and “‘For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it. . . . My glory I will not give to another’” (Isa. 48:11). There can be no misunderstanding these verses: God will do everything He plans and His every purpose shall be fulfilled. The prophet Daniel and the mightiest rulers of his ancient day affirmed this same towering sovereignty of God. Daniel recorded these words of
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Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon: “‘The Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will and sets over it the lowliest of men’” (Dan. 4:17). Nebuchadnezzar humbly confessed: “For his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, ‘What have you done?’” (Dan. 4:34–35). Darius, king of the Medes and Persians, extolled: “‘For he is the living God, enduring forever; his kingdom shall never be destroyed, and his dominion shall be to the end. He delivers and rescues; he works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth’” (Dan 6:26–27). With breathtaking grandeur and jaw-dropping splendor, this is the great and awesome God whom these great men proclaimed. They thundered about a God so sovereign that He cannot be resisted successfully, not by heaven or hell, not by Satan or fallen demons, not by man or elect angels. They reported a God who is Maker, Controller, Sustainer, and Determiner of all. In short, they proclaimed a God towering in supremacy, ruling over history, and ordaining the end from the beginning. This is the God they upheld before the watching eyes of the entire world. They faithfully fulfilled the psalmist’s urgent plea: “Say among the nations, ‘The Lord reigns!’” (Ps. 96:10). Is it any wonder that God so wonderfully blessed their endeavors?
God’s Sovereignty in Salvation The doctrines of grace are a cohesive system of theology in which the sovereignty of God is clearly displayed in the salvation of elect sinners. Not only is God acknowledged to reign over all of human history, both micro and macro, but He is also seen to be sovereign in the dispensing of His saving grace. From Genesis to Revelation, God is emphatically represented in Scripture as being absolutely determinative in bestowing His mercy. He is shown as choosing before the foundation of the world those whom He will save and then, within time, bringing it to pass. The apostle Paul clearly announced God’s sovereign grace in man’s salvation. He wrote that, from eternity, God chose, willed, decided, and planned to save some sinners. To elect is to choose, and God chose who would be saved. Paul wrote: “For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’ So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy” (Rom. 9:15–16).
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This is to say, God decides whom He will save in order to display His glory: “He chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will” (Eph. 1:4–5); “For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you” (1 Thess. 1:4); “God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth” (2 Thess. 2:13); God “saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began” (2 Tim. 1:9); and “Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect” (Titus 1:1). The apostles Peter and John taught precisely the same supreme authority of God in the salvation of His elect. Peter wrote: “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1 Peter 1:1); and “Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure” (2 Peter 1:10). The apostle John wrote: “The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to rise from the bottomless pit and go to destruction. And the dwellers on the earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world will marvel to see the beast, because it was and is not and is to come” (Rev. 17:8).
The Glory of God Is Primary In this system of theology, the glory of God is central. As every planet revolves around the blazing sun, every truth of sovereign grace rotates around this one fixed point—the glory of God. The unrivaled pre-eminence of God stands at the focal point of this theological universe. That God is to be the chief object of praise in the display of His grace is what energizes this solar system of truth. As the compass always points north, so the doctrines of grace constantly point upward toward the lofty heights of the glory of God. What is God’s glory? The Bible speaks of God’s glory in two primary ways. First, there is the intrinsic glory of God, which is the sum total of all His divine perfections and attributes. It is who God is—His infinitely vast greatness. Glory in the Old Testament (kabod) originally meant “heaviness,” “importance,” or “significance.” It came to represent the stunning magnificence of certain objects, such as the blazing sun or the regal majesty displayed by a king. Hence, glory came to be used to describe the magnificent splendor
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and awesome radiance of God Himself revealed to man. In the New Testament, the word for “glory” is doxa, which means “an opinion” or “an estimate” of something. When used of someone’s reputation, it means “importance,” “greatness,” “renown,” or “significance.” God’s intrinsic glory is the revelation of the greatness of His divine attributes to His creatures. It involves God’s greatness and grandeur being manifested to sinners, especially in the salvation of man from sin. No one can add anything to God’s intrinsic glory. God is who He is, never diminishing, never increasing, forever the same, the sovereign Ruler, all-knowing, all-powerful, all-present, all-true, all-wise, loving, grace-giving, merciful, righteous, and wrathful. It is this intrinsic glory that God delights in making known to His creatures. Second, the Bible also speaks of the ascribed glory of God, or the glory that is given to Him. Doxa also has to do with expressing praise to God based upon the revelation of His supreme majesty. The only rightful response to the display of God’s perfections must be to give Him glory. Man must bring the praise due His name. Man must give the worship that belongs exclusively to Him. The display of God’s intrinsic glory causes man to give ascribed glory to God. The more man beholds God’s intrinsic glory in salvation, the more man ascribes glory to God. This, then, is the centerpiece of God’s saving purpose in the universe—the revelation and magnification of His own glory. This is what is at the very center of God’s being—the passionate pursuit of displaying His own glory for His own glory. This is what should be at the center of every human life—the promotion of the glory of God, that is, beholding and adoring His glory. This is what is primary in the salvation of every lost sinner—the revealing of the glory of God so that sinners might rejoice in the glory of God. No wonder Paul writes: “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen” (Rom. 11:36).
Displayed in the Doctrines of Grace This resplendent, intrinsic glory of God, awesome and magnificent, is most fully displayed in the doctrines of grace. And in this order of truth, ascribed glory is most freely and fully given to God. Here all three members of the Godhead—God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit—work together as one Savior, indivisibly united in rescuing radically corrupt sinners. Before time began, the Bible teaches, God the Father chose a people for Him-
A Long Line of Godly Men
self to be worshipers of His glory by becoming the objects of His grace. As an expression of His infinite love for His Son, the Father gave His elect to Christ as a love gift, a people who would praise Him forever and ever. The Father then commissioned His Son to come into this world in order to redeem these chosen ones through His sacrificial death. The Father, along with the Son, also sent the Spirit into this world to apply the saving work of the Son to this same group of elect sinners. This vast number of redeemed saints—those elected by God, purchased by Christ, and called by the Spirit—will never fall from grace. They all shall be transported safely to heaven and glorified forever. This is the God-honoring triumph of sovereign grace. Biblically speaking, these truths have been stated in five main headings that showcase the glory of God in man’s salvation. Each of these truths is deeply rooted and solidly grounded in the rich soil of God’s Word. When the Bible is rightly exegeted, carefully expounded, and properly explained, it clearly teaches these truths, which have been identified as total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and the perseverance of the saints. These terms were first coined at the Synod of Dort (1618–1619) in the seventeenth century Netherlands. Known as the five points of Calvinism, they were a response to the Remonstrants (1610), the followers of Jacob Arminius, who formulated what are now known as the five points of Arminianism. These five headings of thought, the complete antithesis of biblical Calvinism, read as follows: partial depravity, conditional election, universal atonement, resistible grace, and the possible falling away of the saints. Never have two systems of thought been more polarized. The first system, Calvinism, is a God-centered, Christ-exalting way of viewing salvation. God alone is the Savior and, thus, God alone is the object of praise. In the other system, Arminianism, a completely opposite perspective is presented. Arminianism, also known historically as Semi-Pelagianism and Wesleyanism, divides the glory between God and man in the salvation of the human race. As a result, it diminishes the glory given to God. In the first system, that of the doctrines of grace, salvation is completely of the Lord. God alone supplies all that is necessary, both the grace and the faith. But in the latter scheme, salvation is partly of God and partly of man. Here God supplies the grace and man supplies the faith. Man becomes his own co-savior. In the first system, all glory goes to God alone. But in the latter, praise is shared by God and man. The only problem is, God will not share His glory with another.
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Man’s Depravity and God’s Sovereignty The first main heading of the doctrines of grace is total depravity, or radical depravity. This is the doctrine of man’s ruin in sin, and it serves as the black velvet backdrop upon which God’s saving grace is displayed. All mankind is born spiritually dead in trespasses and sin. Fallen man is totally depraved. Sin has radically affected the total man. That is, each part of man—his mind, emotion, and will—is defiled by sin. His mind is darkened, rendering him unable to see the truth about God, Christ, or himself. His heart is defiled and does not desire God, but instead loves his sin. His will is dead and cannot choose what is right. Plagued with this total inability, sinners are in bondage to sin, unable to change and become good. Being dead in sin, man does not even desire to pursue what is right. In short, unregenerate man is totally unable to do any spiritual good, can do nothing to remove his sin, and can make no contribution toward his salvation. Worse, left to himself, fallen man will never seek God or His grace. The second main heading is unconditional election, or sovereign election. Because no sinful man can choose God, God must choose man. The Bible teaches that before the foundation of the world, God chose certain individuals to be the objects of His saving grace. From the fallen sons of Adam’s race, God selected His elect, those whom He would save. This choice was not based upon any foreseen good works or faith. Rather, this election was made exclusively by the gracious choice of God. Having chosen His elect, the Father then gave them to the Son as an expression of His love, and commissioned the Son to enter the world and purchase their salvation. Further, the Father, along with the Son, charged the Holy Spirit to regenerate these chosen ones. Before time began, this was foreordained and predestined by the sovereign will of God. This is the saving grace of God the Father in eternity past.
Redemption Accomplished and Applied The third heading is limited atonement, or definite atonement. Having received the names of the elect from the Father in eternity past, Jesus Christ came into this world to purchase their salvation. Upon the cross, Jesus did not make the entire world somehow potentially savable. Rather, He actually saved. Jesus actually secured eternal life for His sheep. He really purchased the church with His own blood. Jesus redeemed a select group. Dying for all who had been entrusted to Him by the Father, He propitiated the wrath of God. All for whom He died were truly saved through His death. Not one will perish. This is the saving grace of God the Son two thousand years ago.
A Long Line of Godly Men
The fourth truth is irresistible grace, or irresistible call. The Father and the Son have sent the Holy Spirit into this world to convict, call, and regenerate all the elect. As the gospel is proclaimed throughout the world, the Spirit issues a special inward call to those chosen by the Father. The Spirit regenerates spiritually dead souls. He raises the lost sinner from the spiritual grave. He grants repentance and faith. The Spirit opens spiritually blind eyes so they may see the truth. He opens deaf ears so they may hear the truth. He opens closed hearts so they may receive the truth. He activates dead wills so they may believe the truth. He applies the saving death of Christ to the hearts of all the elect. This is the saving grace of God the Holy Spirit within time.
Safe and Secure Forever The fifth truth is the perseverance of the saints, or preserving grace. The Bible teaches that all the elect are kept by the power of God. None of the Father’s chosen ones will ever be lost. None for whom the Son died will ever perish. None who are regenerated by the Spirit will ever fall from grace. All the recipients of the saving grace of God will be ushered into glory, forever protected and preserved. This broad sweep of salvation now stands complete. Reaching back to eternity past and reaching forward to eternity future, salvation is rightly seen as one work of grace. Those whom God chose before time began are those who will be saved forever when time is no more. All the elect will persevere because God Himself will persevere within them—and cause them to stand faultless before His throne. This biblical understanding of salvation clearly reveals that salvation is all of grace. From start to finish, every aspect of saving grace is the free gift of God, sovereignly bestowed upon undeserving sinners. Each member of the Godhead works in perfect unity and harmony in this saving enterprise. First, God the Father chose His elect by Himself and for Himself in eternity past. Second, God the Son redeemed all these chosen by the Father and entrusted to Him. Third, God the Holy Spirit regenerates these chosen and redeemed ones. Together, all three persons—Father, Son, and Spirit—save sinners. The five points of biblical salvation all merge together to form this one dominant point—God saves sinners by His grace and for His glory. What fallen man cannot do for himself, God does. What sinful humans do not even pursue, God pursues and accomplishes. Our triune God activates, accomplishes, and applies saving grace to His elect. In this scheme, salvation is seen to be “from him and through him and to him” (Rom. 11:36).
Foundations of Grace
When salvation is seen in this light, and only then, may it be said, “To him be glory forever. Amen.”
The Long Line Starts Here Is this really the teaching of Scripture? To be sure, these God-centered truths were recorded in the pages of the Word by holy men of God, beginning with the rugged prophets and anointed kings of Israel. Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible, the Pentateuch, and he taught most clearly the sovereignty of divine grace. These same truths were penned by the writers of the historical and wisdom books of the Old Testament—Joshua, Samuel, Ezra, Nehemiah, David, the other psalmists, and Solomon. The prophets all spoke with one voice regarding these precious truths—Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Amos, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. Each one made a significant contribution to the inspired record of the doctrines of grace. Then, in the New Testament, the long line continued with the teaching of the Lord Jesus in the four Gospels, as well as with that of Peter, Paul, Luke, the author of Hebrews, James, Jude, and John. The teaching of sovereign grace literally stretches from cover to cover in the Bible. These God-exalting truths also were the well-studied, firmly held position of a vast army of strong men over the centuries. Those who embrace these truths today may be in the minority, but the doctrines of grace were the conviction of those who led the early church. Following the biblical authors were the early church fathers—men like Clement of Rome, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Athanasius, Augustine, and Jerome. They taught the doctrines of grace, believing they were written in Scripture. After these men came many shining lights in the Dark Ages—faithful servants such as Gallus, Gottschalk, Peter Waldo, Anselm, and Thomas of Bradwardine. Then, before the dawning of the Reformation, there were such notable forerunners as John Wycliffe, John Hus, Savonarola, and William Tyndale. All these men trumpeted the doctrines of sovereign grace.
The Reformers Join Ranks In the unprecedented days of the Reformation in sixteenth century Europe, there were spiritual giants who walked the Continent, men skilled in the Scriptures and taught by the Holy Spirit—Reformers such as Martin Luther, Martin Bucer, Ulrich Zwingli, John Calvin, Theodore Beza, Francis Turretin, and those saints who convened at the Synod of Dort in the Netherlands. To a man, they were strong predestinarians. Without wavering, they were firmly committed
A Long Line of Godly Men
to the doctrines of sovereign grace. Only a message as catalytic as these truths could have turned Europe upside down. Following in their wake were the Scottish and English Reformers—John Knox, John Foxe, John Rogers, Nicholas Ridley, Hugh Latimer, and the like— men who held high the torch of truth on the British Isles. The testimonies of many of these men were sealed with their blood, for these frontline British Reformers believed in the sovereign grace of God. After them came the Puritans, stalwarts such as Thomas Goodwin, Richard Sibbes, Jeremiah Burroughs, John Owen, Thomas Watson, and Matthew Henry. These Scots and Englishmen proclaimed a God who freely dispenses His saving mercy upon whom He wills. At this same time, there were Particular Baptists raised up by God who also sounded the note of sovereign grace—John Bunyan, Benjamin Keach, and John Gill.
The Long Line Crosses the Atlantic In the providence of God, the truths of the doctrines of grace were soon carried across the Atlantic by men searching for religious freedom. The Pilgrims were distinctly Calvinistic, as they brought with them and preached from their Geneva Bibles. The early Colonial leaders were staunchly Reformed. Those who founded the early states—men such as John Winthrop, Thomas Hooker, Roger Williams, Increase Mather, and Cotton Mather—were all Calvinistic. The first American colleges, Harvard and Yale, were Calvinistic, established to train Reformed ministers who would preach Reformed doctrine. As the Colonies became more settled, the flames of revival burned brightly in New England. In the lead of this movement, which was known as the Great Awakening, were Calvinistic pastors, evangelists, and educators. William Tennent, Sr., and his sons, Gilbert and William Tennent, were leading Presbyterian pastors who established the Log Cabin College to train Bible-preaching pastors. Jonathan Edwards of Northampton, Mass., was the leading pastor of the time and a strict Calvinist of the highest order. George Whitefield of Bristol, England, was unquestionably the most distinguished evangelist of the day, perhaps of any day, and was Reformed to the core. When Harvard and Yale succumbed to the slippery slope of Arminianism, Princeton was raised up to become the new bastion of Calvinism. Other colleges were established that were distinctly Reformed—Rutgers, Dartmouth, and Brown. The rich truths of sovereign grace saturated the soil of the early Colonies. Calvinism was the dominant worldview of the day.
Foundations of Grace
With the coming of the Revolutionary War, Reformed thinkers continued to lead. The representative form of government drafted into the Constitution was simply the Reformed truth of elder rule expanded and applied to the nation. Many of the founding fathers were Calvinistic, including John Witherspoon, the only pastor to sign the Declaration of Independence. After the Revolutionary War, the Second Great Awakening blazed across New England, with key men such as Timothy Dwight, president of Yale, and Asahel Nettleton, both strong Calvinists, among its leaders.
The Triumphant Procession in America As the young nation emerged, Princeton Seminary was soon founded on the campus of the college. For more than one hundred years, Princeton Seminary would be the leading influence for evangelical truth in America. On the faculty of Princeton was a virtual army of biblical scholars, each man strictly Calvinistic. This line began with its founder, Archibald Alexander, and extended to its last strong voice, J. Gresham Machen. In between were such theological giants as Charles Hodge, who next to Jonathan Edwards was America’s leading theologian; J.W. Alexander; J.A. Alexander; A.A. Hodge; and the luminous Benjamin B. Warfield, the arch defender of the faith and a towering Reformed theologian. In the middle of the nineteenth century, the Southern Baptist Convention was founded. This missions-minded evangelical group, formed in Charleston, S.C., was destined to become the largest Protestant denomination in the world. It was a body of Bible-believers founded by men immovably committed to the doctrines of grace. Every president of the convention for the first fifty years was Calvinistic—William B. Johnson, R.B.C. Howell, Richard Fuller, Patrick Mell, and others. The founders of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, the denomination’s first seminary, believed and openly taught the doctrines of grace. Among them were James P. Boyce and John Broadus, who both attended Princeton, and later Edwin Dargan. The Abstract of Principles was—and remains to this day—the doctrinal standard of Southern, and it is an avowedly Calvinistic document. The founder of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, B.H. Carroll, was another man who expounded the unconditional election of God. The very foundation of this great association of Baptist churches was laid upon the solid rock of sovereign grace. During the same nineteenth century, the Presbyterians were gaining a strong strategic foothold in the South. Distinguished theologians and pastors
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such as William S. Plumer, Daniel Baker, Robert L. Dabney, James Henley Thornwell, Benjamin Palmer, and John L. Girardeau left their mark upon their churches and students with the truths of sovereign grace. Because they had adopted the Westminster Confession of Faith, there was no disputing where these pastors and churches stood theologically. In the North, William G.T. Shedd, a powerful theologian of Reformed dogmatics, wrote substantive tomes of theology and anchored these Reformed truths for years to come.
The Long Line Spans the Globe The greatest outreach movement in the history of the world, the modern missions movement, saw missionaries sent to the corners of the earth in the nineteenth century. These mighty men were largely Calvinistic. William Carey, who has been called the father of this movement, was one who embraced sovereign grace. He believed there were elect people in every tribe and nation around the world, and that Christ’s servants must go to reach them with the gospel. Other men of Reformed persuasion were leading figures of this historic movement, as well. Missionaries such as Luther Rice, Adoniram Judson, David Livingstone, Henry Martyn, Robert Moffat, and John Paton were to follow, all believers in sovereign grace. Back across the Atlantic in Scotland and England, the nineteenth century church had a strongly Calvinistic flavor, especially among its leaders. In Scotland, some of the most faithful pastors, theologians, evangelists, and missionaries the church has ever known were raised up by God. Stalwarts such as Andrew Bonar, Thomas Boston, Robert Murray McCheyne, and Robert Candlish pastored churches. Robert Haldane and James Haldane helped see the gospel spread abroad. Thomas Chalmers and James Buchanan were brilliant Scottish theologians, steeped in Reformed doctrine, who also served as pastors. The astute minds of these Scots, combined with their evangelistic and missionary zeal, made them notable men indeed. At this same time, the pulpit power of Calvinistic preachers in England can hardly be overstated. Most prominent of all was “the Prince of Preachers,” Charles H. Spurgeon, an avowed and avid Calvinist. This man’s Reformed influence upon the church was considerable, and remains strong even to this present hour through his writings. Surrounding him in other British churches were expositors such as Alexander Maclaren, John C. Ryle, and Charles Simeon, and the noted orphan caretaker George Mueller. All these men were committed to the sovereignty of grace.
Foundations of Grace
In the Netherlands, where the Synod of Dort convened, the proclamation of God’s sovereignty in man’s salvation continued to be strong into the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Abraham Kuyper, who became prime minister of the Netherlands, was a leading voice for the doctrines of grace. Noted Dutch theologians such as Herman Bavinck, G. C. Berkouwer, and Louis Berkhof left their mark upon evangelical minds through the printed page. William Hendriksen and Simon Kistemaker, both of Dutch background, also left an enduring body of work in their New Testament Commentary series.
The Grand Parade Stretches to the Present All this brings us to those godly men most recently raised up by God, who have faithfully upheld these biblical truths of sovereign grace. In the first half of the twentieth century, the prolific pen of A. W. Pink was exceptional in spreading these high doctrines. John Murray, president of Westminster Theological Seminary, helped train several generations of Calvinistic pastors, authors, and missionaries. Donald Grey Barnhouse, pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia, and a firmly convinced Calvinist, became the most popular American expositor of the 1950s. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, pastor of Westminster Chapel, London, became the most popular English expositor of the twentieth century. James Montgomery Boice, Barnhouse’s successor at Tenth Presbyterian, was the most significant pastor and defender of Calvinism in the twentieth century. To this day, these critical ministries have left an indelible mark upon the theocentric thinking of countless legions of modernday pastors and church leaders. This present hour is not without its champions of sovereign grace. Among them are valiant warriors of the truth such as R.C. Sproul, founder of Ligonier Ministries, and D. James Kennedy, founder of Evangelism Explosion. The worldwide influence of the expository pulpit of John MacArthur, pastor of Grace Community Church, Los Angeles, is incomparably vast as he expounds these truths for all to hear. The passionate zeal of John Piper, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, is now influencing an entire generation as he uses his pen and voice to proclaim the supremacy of God in man’s salvation. R. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, looms as a towering influencer of the next generation of pastors, infecting them with a high view of God. These are but some of the noteworthy presentday men who are Calvinistic in doctrine and strong in their influence.
A Long Line of Godly Men
God Raises Up His Men How is it that each of these men has come onto the scene of human history? Let us be sure, it is God Himself, the sovereign Lord of history, who raises up each generation of spiritual leaders to join this long line of godly men. God, the Determiner of history, prepares the man for the hour and the hour for the man. As the sole Builder of His church, the Lord Jesus Christ appoints the time when and the place where each man will find himself on the grander stage of history. With infinite genius and perfect design, Christ sovereignly chooses His men (John 15:16), calling them from their mothers’ wombs (Jer. 1:5; Luke 1:15; Gal. 1:15–16) to fulfill the specific work they will do (Eph. 2:10). Even the very success they will enjoy is predetermined by Christ, who alone causes the growth (1 Cor. 3:6–7). Jesus vowed, “‘I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it’” (Matt. 16:18). By this irrevocable promise, Christ pledged that He would sovereignly build His church, and even death itself would not impede its progress. That is to say, when one generation passes off the scene, Christ will faithfully raise up the next wave of men to continue His work. Whenever a Luther or a Calvin departs this world, God has the next wave of workers standing in the wings, poised and ready to advance the work. Nowhere is this truth more clearly seen than in the continual supply of His Preacher of the Doctrines of Grace. Boice writes: “These doctrines were not invented by Calvin, nor were they characteristic of his thought alone during the Reformation period. These are biblical truths taught by Jesus and confirmed by Paul, Peter and all the other Old and New Testament writers. Augustine defended these doctrines against the denials of Pelagius. Luther believed them. So did Zwingli. That is, they believed what Calvin believed and later systematized in his influential Institutes of the Christian Religion. The Puritans were Calvinists; it was through them and their teaching that both England and Scotland experienced the greatest and most pervasive national revivals the world has ever seen. In that number were the heirs of John Knox: Thomas Cartwright, Richard Sibbes, Richard Baxter, Matthew Henry, John Owen and others. In America others were influenced by men such as Jonathan Edwards, Cotton Mather and, later, George Whitefield. In more recent times the modern missionary movement received nearly all its initial impetus and direction from those in the Calvinistic tradition. The list includes William Carey, John Ryland, Henry Martyn,
Foundations of Grace
Robert Moffat, David Livingstone, John G. Paton, John R. Mott and others. For all these the doctrines of grace were not an appendage to Christian thought but were rather, central, firing and forming their preaching and missionary efforts.”2
Foundations of Grace: The Rock-Solid Word This book, Foundations of Grace, is the first title of a five-volume set. The focus of these pages and chapters is upon the biblical authors who laid the sturdy foundation for the doctrines of grace in sacred Scripture. What did they teach? What does Scripture set forth regarding the sovereignty of God in salvation? All that we believe and hold dear about the supremacy of God in the redemption of fallen men must be the truth of God’s Word. Otherwise, it is to be rejected. So, what does Scripture say? Beginning with writings of the prophet Moses and concluding with the Revelation of the apostle John, we will systematically trace the development of the doctrines of grace through the pages of divine Scripture. In the chapters ahead, we will mark the progressive revelation of sovereign grace throughout the Old Testament, starting with Moses and proceeding to Joshua, Samuel, Ezra, Nehemiah, Job, David, Solomon, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel, all the way to the minor prophets, from Hosea to Malachi. In the New Testament, we will discover and document the doctrines of grace as taught by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself in the four Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Christ was the greatest preacher of sovereign grace who ever lived. Likewise, we will detail the teaching of God’s sovereignty in saving grace as taught by Peter, Paul, Luke, the author of Hebrews, James, Jude, and, finally, John. This survey from cover to cover in the Bible will lay an immovable foundation for the sovereign grace of God. Each future volume in this series will build upon this biblical bedrock and provide a walk through church history, featuring the noble men who preached and taught the doctrines of grace. But first, let us sound the roll call of these servants who wrote the Scriptures and recorded the sovereignty of God’s grace. Starting with Moses and extending to the apostles, here is a look at the beginning of the long line of godly men. Notes Charles H. Spurgeon, as quoted by David Steele and Curtis Thomas in The Five Points of Calvinism (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed, 1963), 8. 2 James Montgomery Boice, Foundations of the Christian Faith: A Comprehensive & Readable Theology (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1986), 519. 1
A Long Line of Godly Men
Chapter One STUDY QUESTIONS 1. What central truth has united a long line of godly men through the centuries? Why this truth? 2. What positive effect does the doctrine of the sovereignty of God have upon those who embrace it? 3. What is primary in God’s sovereignty in man’s salvation? Why is this so? 4. Describe the difference between God’s intrinsic glory and His ascribed glory. Which affects the other? Explain why. 5. How do the doctrines of grace uniquely manifest God’s glory? Compare this manifestation with that of the chief doctrines of Arminianism. Which system gives greater glory to God? 6. Briefly summarize the five major headings of the doctrines of grace. How do they proceed in thought, from one to the next? 7. How does equivocation on any one of the five doctrines of grace jeopardize the other four? Explain why this is so. 8. Can you give a brief survey of church history, highlighting the most significant men who held to the doctrines of grace?