Putting the “Do” in the Doctrine – Part 1

In my humble opinion, there are two ‘kinds’ of Christians in our reformed camp. Those who are reformed and glad and those who are reformed and mad. The glad are glad because they are overwhelmed by the mercy of God in saving them undeservingly. They have learnt that they were chosen before the foundation of the world, that they were predestined for adoption through Jesus Christ according to the purpose of God who works all things according to the counsel of His will. This grace is scandalously glorious, and since nobody dares to question God Almighty, the glad are rightly glad.

Enter the mad: The mad are mad about errant theological opinions around and about them. Their chief orientation is not the blessings in the doctrines of grace but rage towards all those who just don geddit! Please don’t get it twisted, been there, done that and I readily admit that there’s a myriad of reasons for being up in arms hunting heresy. Presbyterian Minister Terry Johnson (When grace comes home) aptly shows us why there’s much to be angry about, for “how many people are robbed of their peace because other Christians persuade them that they can have no eternal security? How many are devastated by affliction because they haven’t been taught that God is sovereign? How many are trapped in the emotional turmoil of unworkable ‘higher life’ views of sanctification?” and I must add: How many in our continent are declared ‘saved’ after listening to those of ‘another gospel’ that “God loves them and has a wonderful plan for their lives” and repeating those lines of the sinner’s prayer? How many? The sinner’s prayer alone has victims that rival malaria, men and women deceived into hell! There’s certainly nothing to smile about in this long paragraph, yet should anger be our characteristic mood?

Our polemics with believers and unbelievers must aim at getting men to praise God. The chief end of the knowledge of sovereign grace is praise, the praise of His glory. Paul punctuates the first chapter of the epistle to the Ephesians with praise to God. He rejoices as he contemplates the riches of God’s grace lavished upon believers. A sincere understanding of the doctrines of grace will take every thought captive and cause every knee to bow down in worship. It is absolutely revolutionary! These truths should make you more of a worshipper than a debater. They took me out of that miry God-is-there-for-me theology and set my feet upon the rock-solid I-am-there-for-God theology. The gladder we are about the delights of the Reformed faith the more effective we become in bringing other believers to the same convictions.

We share Mr. Spurgeon’s conviction that ‘Calvinism is the gospel and nothing else’. He quipped that it is a nickname to call it Calvinism. Many who do not share this perspective consider our theology a sectarian belief founded on irrelevant theological cogitations. We surely must be living testimonies of the difference that the knowledge of God’s truth in the doctrines of grace has made in our lives. Our theology must be devotional. Retired Pastor Albert Martin thinks the solely academic Calvinist is a misnomer, and I couldn’t agree more. Am I a true Calvinist or have I just read Warfield or Pink or Flavel or Calvin himself and loved the consistency of Reformed theology? Have I gone back to the Scriptures again and again and felt undone by God’s mercy or am I still standing atop that mountain of ‘books by dead guys’ and like Goliath spoiling for a fight on social media? Amazing grace most certainly demands worship. We must lie prostrate with Charles Wesley and consider it all mercy that we should gain an interest in the Saviour’s blood. If I call myself a Calvinist and the doctrine of sovereign grace hasn’t turned me into a worshiper of God, I am an imposter.

The purpose for which God has revealed the things that are revealed is so that we may do all the words of this law (Deutronomy 29:29). We will not do the words of this law if we do not know and delight in the Giver of this law. Consider Isaiah of old beholding the majesty of Lord. He says He saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, the train of His robe filling the temple. Above Him stood the six-winged seraphim that covered their faces with two wings, their feet with two wings and flew with two wings. One called to the other saying: Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory! What was the prophet’s response? “Woe is me! For I am ruined!” (Isaiah 6:1-5). Moses “hid his face, for He was afraid to look upon God” (Exodus 3:6). Job “abhorred himself and repented in dust and ashes” (Job 42:6). Peter fell down at his Lord’s feet and cried, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Luke 5:8). Encountering the All-Holy ruins you, it causes you to feel your nothingness.

Then when we encounter grace, what ought we to do? We must bow down in worship. The Apostle Paul chases the meaning of salvation by sovereign election for three chapters beginning Romans 8 then at the end of the 11th chapter he can’t but break into worship: O the depths 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.

Sunday worship (and all of life really) should then be more joyful because of God’s grace alone by which we are saved yet toyless (well, I just came up with a new word) because we always are in the presence of the Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God Almighty, the Absolute Sovereign of the universe. So have we any knowledge of the Holy and any knowledge of our depravity? We must seek mercy. Have we any knowledge of sovereign grace? We must bow down in worship and break into praise? Any knowledge of God’s absolute sovereignty over the affairs of men? We must peacefully trust Him. That is the soul of Calvinism, without which it is dead. And without which, instead of a fragrance, a stench rises to the nostrils of God.