Reformed theology traces its origins back to the Reformation of the 16th Century. It declares that salvation is based on what is known as the five Solas: Sola Fide (by faith alone), Sola Scriptura (by Scripture alone), Solus Christus (through Christ alone), Sola Gratia (by grace alone), and soli Deo Gloria (glory to God alone).  One has defined Reformed Theology like this: Reformed theology has been simply seen as “what the Bible teaches” and “what evangelicals believe.”

Reformed theology teaches that the Bible is the inspired and authoritative Word of God, adequate in all matters of faith and practice as stated in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.”  In contrast to Roman Catholic doctrine, the Reformers believed that the Bible alone teaches all that is necessary for our salvation from sin and is the standard by which all Christian behavior must be evaluated. The Reformers also taught that the Bible, interpreted and applied by the indwelling Holy Spirit, is all that is necessary for the Christian life.

Reformed theology teaches that God is sovereign and rules with absolute control over all creation. God works all things according to the counsel of His own will as we read in Ephesians 1:11, “In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.” His purposes are never stopped as we read in Isaiah 46:11, “…yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it.”

In regards to salvation, Reformed theology teaches that God in His grace and mercy has chosen to redeem a people to Himself, delivering them from sin and death. The Reformed doctrine of salvation is also known as the five points of Calvinism, or the Doctrines of Grace. They are not intended to be a comprehensive summary of Calvinism or Reformed doctrine, but an exposition of the sovereignty of God in salvation to address the particular points raised by the followers of Jacob Arminius, a theologian of that day. The doctrines are represented by the acrostic TULIP:

  • T – Total depravity. Man is completely spiritually helpless in his unredeemed state, is under the wrath of God for his sin, and can in no way please God or choose Him. Total depravity also means that man will not naturally seek to know God, until God graciously prompts him to do so (Genesis 6:5; Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 3:10-18).
  • U – Unconditional election. God, from eternity past, has chosen to save a great multitude of sinners (the elect), not based upon any merit shown by the objects of His grace and not based upon foreseen faith (Romans 8:29-30; 9:11-15; Ephesians 1:4-6, 11-12).
  • L – Limited atonement, also called “particular redemption.” Christ took the judgment for the sin of the elect upon Himself and thereby paid for their lives with His death. In other words, He did not simply make salvation possible – He actually obtained it for those whom the Father had chosen (Matthew 1:21; John 10:11; 17:9; Acts 20:28; Romans 8:32; Ephesians 5:25). While His death was certainly able to save all mankind, it is efficacious (applied) only to the elect.
  • I – Irresistible grace. In his fallen state, man resists God’s love, but the grace of God working in his heart makes him desire what he had previously resisted. People come to Christ in salvation when the Father calls them (John 6:44), and the Spirit of God leads God’s elect to repentance (Romans 8:14). God’s grace will not fail to accomplish its saving work in the elect (John 6:37, 44; 10:16).
  • P – Perseverance of the saints. Christ assures the elect that He will not lose them and that they will be glorified at the “last day” (John 6:39). Those called and justified will certainly be glorified (Romans 8:28–39). God protects His saints from falling away; thus, salvation is eternal (John 10:27-29; Ephesians 1:3-14).

Many true believers today will accept some or all of the points above.  I cannot completely accept the teaching of LIMITED ATONEMENT, which states that salvation is only available to some.  We read of the Lord in 1 Timothy 2:4, “Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.”  We also read in 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”  It is the Lord’s desire that all would be saved.  (CC)  (533.6)