top of page
Marble Surface
What  is “Reformed theology” or “Calvinism?”

Questions and Answers 2 - Pipestone CRC

From the Pastor’s Desk



What  is “Reformed theology” or “Calvinism?”


You may have heard someone say this: “I am reformed in my theology” and you were puzzled by what this means. To be honest it is an “insider” term that “outsiders” wouldn’t grasp. But in no way do we want to be an exclusive club. In our church we would invite you to become one of us; an “insider” who loves the clear biblical doctrines of reformed theology.


The 16th century reformer Martin Luther sparked the reformation, but others took it further. The most notable figure in this regard was John Calvin a few decades after Luther. The most famous of his works are called “The Institutes of the Christian Religion” which are well worth exploring further. In 1619 The Synod of Dort, to counter five false teachings of a man named Jacob Arminius, outlined some of Calvin’s key teachings with “The five points of Calvinism.” I will state them briefly here, because to be reformed is to be, broadly speaking, “Calvinistic.” Of course, we hold that these doctrines are not merely “Calvinistic” but first, biblical.


You will note that these five points follow the acrostic “TULIP.”


1. The "T" is "Total Depravity.” This doesn't mean that we're all as bad as we could be. Rather, it means that all aspects of our nature are corrupted by the effects of sin so that we are unable to choose God on our own. In Romans 3:10-12 the apostle Paul says: "None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless, no one does good, not even one." Paul doesn't write this to discourage us, but to remind us that our salvation has to be all grace, because we would never choose God on our own!


2. The "U" is "Unconditional Election." This sounds intimidating, but it means that God elects us, or chooses us, on the basis of his sovereign will alone. He doesn't evaluate our "condition" and decide whether or not we are good enough to be saved. In Romans 9:13, "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated." It's not that Jacob was better than Esau, but that God simply chose to love Jacob and left Esau in his sin. This magnifies the grace of salvation -- who are we that God would open our eyes to him?


3. The "L" is "Limited Atonement."  Atonement is the reconciling work of Jesus on the cross, making us "at one" with God. Here, "Limited" doesn’t mean that God couldn’t save everyone. Rather it means "Particular" – Jesus died only to save his elect -- that is, those he has has chosen. If Jesus died to save everybody, and everybody didn't believe, then God would be shown to be weak! He isn't. In Romans 8:30, "And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those who he justified he also glorified." Salvation is a golden chain that begins with God's calling and ends with our glorification! God gets all the glory.


4. The "I" is "Irresistible grace." Those who are chosen by God for eternal life cannot resist his grace. If they could, then God isn't God and his power to save would be called into question! This doesn't  mean that we don't have to work at our salvation. It means that we work because God is at work within us. In Phil. 2:12-13, "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure."


5. The "P" is "Perseverance of the Saints." This means God preserves, or keeps to the end, those he has saved. If he didn't have that power, he wouldn't be God! In John 6:39 Jesus says, "And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day."


Salvation from beginning to end is God's grace. This makes us thankful people because we don't deserve to be saved. It sets us free to do the work of evangelism without anxiety, knowing that God is the one who must open the hearts of others, not our efforts or skills. It gives us a great assurance that we will make it to our final destination, the new heavens and the new earth. Rejoice in your great salvation and in the wonderful promises of God for your future!

bottom of page