What Exactly Is "Sovereign Grace"?

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"TULIP" Baptists, "Calvinism", & Historical Christian Doctrine

 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:  Not of works, lest any man should boast.  (Ephesians 2:8-9 KJV) 

“Sovereign Grace” or the “Doctrines of Grace” is a theological summation of doctrines that covers the Biblical definition of the Attributes of God and the state of man, as well as the means by which God has provided salvation and reconciliation to sinners.


While there are over 170 references to the Greek word translated “grace” in the New Testament, many with a wide variety of applications, “grace” is most broadly defined as “God’s unmerited favor”; salvation is God’s free gift of faith and repentance to guilty, undeserving sinners.


A reasonable summary of the doctrinal position of Sovereign Grace Church is found in the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith (actually first drafted as the First London Baptist Confession of Faith in 1644 and fully cross-referenced with Scriptural prooftexts).


Often called “the 5 Points of Calvinism” because the 16th Century  reformer John Calvin most eloquently expounded upon the Biblical foundation of the Doctrines of Grace, these truths are also frequently summarized by the acronym TULIP. 


After the fall of Adam and Eve, the Scriptures clearly teach that the effects of sin have reached to all aspects of human life, rendering men and women incapable of spiritual understanding or moral perfection.  We cannot naturally love nor obey God.  While it does not mean that all people are as evil as they could possibly be in all areas of their lives and beliefs, we are nevertheless “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1) and totally incapable of saving ourselves.


God’s Word has demonstrated that, from before the foundation of the world, He has elected some sinners to be saved from the condemnation and eternal punishment that we justly deserve, merely because of His gracious mercy and love, and not because of any merits or works that we could have done or can do.  Because of the total depravity of man, salvation must originate with God and is solely determined by His sovereign will.  Though an unpopular doctrine today because some regard it as showing unfairness on God’s part, election and predestination recognize that all have sinned and that it is only by God’s grace that some are saved.


Christ died to save only the elect, and He has guaranteed the certainty of their salvation.  This truth does not imply a limitation upon God’s power to save, but rather the extent of His election.  It was the will of the Father that the blood of the Son should atone for only His chosen people.  Prophecy had foretold that the Lord’s Servant, Jesus Christ, would see His work and be satisfied (Isaiah 53:11), but that there would also be many who would not repent and would be punished for eternity (Matthew 7:13).  The divine justice, along with the facts of history, clearly deny the universalist notion that all somehow will be saved.  Although the number of the elect is a great number, God’s true followers are identified in both the Old and New Testament as but a remnant as compared with those who, though religious, lack a personal relationship with God through Christ.


The Gospel message involves a general invitation to all that they should turn to Him for salvation.  Because of their sinful condition, however, they are incapable of anything but rejecting the call because of their natural state.  When the call of God is issued to the elect, the Spirit of God effectually calls them by regenerating new life in their hearts.  They recognize their own sin and their need of a Savior, and they are given faith to believe in Christ alone for that promise.  The elect are thus drawn to Christ by His irresistible mercy and grace.


When God has called elect sinners, He continues to keep and preserve them by His power and grace.  He will never let them go, nor cause them to forfeit their salvation.  His promise to His people is one of eternal life, not conditional life.  This is not a license for continued sinning by the Christian, as there are certainly far-reaching consequences of sin when believers stumble into sin, but we can never fall away completely.  True Christians will be preserved and should show a progressive sanctification in obedience.  We should demonstrate an increasing desire for holiness and an increasing loathing of sin until finally delivered to Heaven for eternity.

 Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:1 KJV) Sovereign Grace Church is “Calvinistic” insofar as its understanding and defense of the basic Biblical truths regarding God’s sovereignty and sole responsibility in election and salvation, as well as the Scriptural teachings on the nature of God and man.  As contrasted with Arminian and modernist tendencies to compromise these truths, we affirm God’s faithfulness and ability to fulfill His promises regarding eternal life for His people.  Therefore, we hold the teaching of Scripture to be higher than the fallible teachings of man, and we follow Calvin only where his summations of doctrine coincide with Biblical revelation.