09 October 2022 by Published in: Jared Smith, Bible Doctrine No comments yet

A Transcript Of The Video Study

In our previous study, I gave an explanation on what I believe the terms evangelism and discipleship mean, and then proceeded to show how the Five Points of Calvinism can be used as a teaching tool for both. In my concluding remarks, I commended to you the use of the Five Points for that purpose. Indeed, there are some advantages associated with using the Five Points as a teaching tool—first, it provides a basic summary of the duties incumbent upon the unregenerate under the authority of the covenant of works, and also of the blessings bestowed upon the regenerate under the authority of the covenant of grace; second, it clearly distinguishes between the free will of man on the one hand, and the free grace of God on the other; third, it is a well known system of teachings among many Christians, and is therefore easily assessable to them; fourth, it has behind it four hundred years of history—the Five Points were formulated in the year 1618. Surely, everyone subscribing to the teachings of sovereign grace recognizes the benefits for using them as a teaching tool for evangelism and discipleship.

However, as with most things, there are disadvantages connected with the Five Points if using them as a teaching tool. That is the subject I would like to address in this study.

First, the Five Points are an academic construct of the gospel, rather than a scripturally shaped framework. I do not mean the Five Points are unscriptural. Rather, the Five Points as they appear in this outline were developed as the result of a theological controversy in the 17th century. The place was Holland, the year was 1618. The synod of Dort was convened and the delegates were commissioned to examine five main articles of faith belonging to the Arminians. At the end of their sessions, it was determined the Arminian teachings were unscriptural, and in their place, were substituted what has become known as the Five Points of Calvinism. Now, as I have said, each of the Five Points are scriptural, but their arrangement is manmade, and I believe this to be a disadvantage if using it as a primary teaching tool for evangelism and discipleship. Surely, you would agree, if it is possible to discover a scriptural arrangement of these truths, then it would be far better to use that framework as a teaching tool, rather than one which is manmade. It just so happens, there is a framework of teachings derived directly from the text of scripture—the Framework of Sovereign Grace. Based on the analogy of a potter and the clay, the teachings of Romans 9:21-23 and 2 Timothy 2:20 outline an overview of God’s masterplan for the ages. Now, here we have two teaching tools for evangelism and discipleship—there is the Five Points of Calvinism, developed by men during a theological controversy, and there is the Framework of Sovereign Grace, revealed by God through the writings of the Apostle Paul. If given the choice, which framework of teaching would you feel more comfortable using? Yes, I know, some of you are saying, “I’d use the Five Points of Calvinism for sure!” Well, that’s fine if you do. But I am making the point that the Framework of Sovereign Grace carries greater authority, for not only does it set out the same teachings as the Five Points, but it places them within a scriptural context of God’s masterplan for the ages. Alright, so the first disadvantage connected with using the Five Points as a teaching tool is that it is an academic construct of the gospel, rather than a scripturally shaped framework.

Second, the Five Points begin with Total Depravity, whereas the logical order of God’s decree begins with Unconditional Election. “But,” you ask, “shouldn’t we begin where people now are—in their sins?” Yes, that is certainly a legitimate place to begin. This is where the Five Points begin. And in fact, this is what I commended to you last week. However, this is not the only place to begin, nor is it, in my opinion, the best place to begin. As I have shown you in the previous studies, the Apostle Paul explains the logical order of God’s decree to begin with the doctrine of Unconditional Election, after which the doctrine of Total Depravity is introduced. First, the Father envisions the whole mass of the human race, without viewing them in sin, out from which He sets apart some as objects of His special love (elect), setting aside the others as objects of less love (non-elect). Second, the Father determined to bring the human race into existence, by creating a time continuum and physical world. Third, the Father chose to enter a relationship with the human race by establishing the covenant of works with Adam, inscribing upon his heart a righteous law, requiring of him perfect obedience, and appointing him to serve as the federal head for the entire human race. Fourth, the Father decreed the fall of Adam, and with him, the sin and condemnation that would come upon all his posterity. Fifth, the Father chose to leave the non-elect in their sins, fitting them to destruction, but, having already set the elect apart as objects of special love, devised a plan of salvation to deliver His people from their sins and condemnation.

Now, you see, if we begin with the doctrine of Total Depravity, as do the Five Points, then it introduces a range of difficulties:

First, it doesn’t allow us to speak about the eternal and self-existent God, distinct from creation.

Second, it doesn’t allow us to speak about the one true and living God existing in three distinct Persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Third, it doesn’t allow us to speak about the human race as the focal point of creation, it being the reason God created time and the world.

Fourth, it doesn’t allow us to speak about the Father’s discriminating love, setting some persons apart as objects of special love, while setting the others aside as objects of less love.

Fifth, it doesn’t allow us to properly set up the purpose and significance of a covenant relationship, which of course, is the canopy under which the doctrine of Total Depravity resides.

Sixth, it doesn’t allow us to speak about the doctrine of Redemption with any real meaning, for if the Father does not own His elect people prior to viewing them in sin, then how can He redeem that people whom He never owned?

Seventh, it doesn’t provide a backdrop of God’s masterplan for the ages, which leaves open ended the beginning and the end of God’s purpose for the world.

And so, my dear friends, I believe the Five Points of Calvinism is not the best teaching tool to use for evangelism and discipleship, because it begins with the doctrine of Total Depravity, whereas the logical order of God’s decree begins with the doctrine of Unconditional Election. Henceforth, if given a choice between these two teachings tools—the Five Points and the Framework of Sovereign Grace—which do you believe provides the better presentation of truth?

Well, this leads to another disadvantage of using the Five Points as a teaching tool.

Third, the Five Points do not allow much room to discuss other vital doctrines and related issues. By using the Five Point outline, we are restricted to deal with each point as a stand alone doctrine. Sure, we may introduce other doctrines as we explain each point, but this would eventually lead away from the main point, which often results in one getting lost in the details, perhaps creating more confusion than clarity. On the other hand, if we use the Framework of Sovereign Grace as the teaching tool, then there isn’t a subject that doesn’t fit somewhere on the diagram. This is a bird’s eye view of God’s masterplan for the ages. Everything fits into this context of time and eternity. Not only do the Five Points fit within this framework, but everything before, between, after, within and without those points fit within this framework. If this framework is used as your teaching tool for evangelism and discipleship, then every subject that may come up in your discussions, both with believers and unbelievers, fits somewhere within the context on this diagram. Plus, it doesn’t matter what degree of detail you may find yourself explaining or discussing with your family and friends, this framework allows you to pinpoint, like a map, where those details fit in the grand scheme of time and eternity. You see, the Five Points cannot serve this purpose, which is why I say, the third reason it is a disadvantage to use the Five Points as a teaching tool, is because they do not allow much room to discuss other vital doctrines and related issues.

Fourth, the Five Points require the use of academic labels, which can be a hindrance when explaining the truth. Just look at the terminology—Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Particular Redemption, Irresistible Grace and the Perseverance of the Saints. Think back to the time you first heard these terms. What was your first impression? You were probably a little overwhelmed, not by the meaning of these teachings, but by the complexity of the labels used. Now, it is impossible to escape this problem entirely, for even if we do not use the labels of the Five Points, there are many other doctrines which are identified by strange sounding words, and we use that language because those words or labels have specific meanings. So, I am not saying we must only use biblical language when explaining the truth, and neither am I saying we must only use gradeshool level terms. However, I am saying that if it be possible to explain various truths without always using the labels, then this is a decided advantage when teaching the gospel. In fact, I would go as far to say that unless you can explain a doctrine without using the label, you probably do not have a sufficient understanding of that doctrine. And you see, this is where the Framework of Sovereign Grace once again has an advantage over the Five Points. It has been said, “A picture is worth a thousand words”. Well, here we have a picture of God’s masterplan for the ages—without saying a word, the whole of God’s plan is set forth in the diagram. Now, there are labels on this diagram which are not in common use today—Jehovah, TriUne, Covenant, Redemption and Sanctification. However, to explain these terms in this context is far easier than explaining Total Depravity or Particular Redemption in the context of the Five Points. And so, the fourth reason it is a disadvantage to use the Five Points as a teaching tool is because it requires the use of academic labels, which can be a hindrance when explaining the truth.

Fifth, the Five Points, because they are an academic construct, tend to nurture a cold, calculated and arrogant spirit, which flows out from those who use it as a teaching tool for evangelism and discipleship. In fact, those with this type of spirit seldom evangelize and disciple. They are too busy arguing and debating the Five Points with others. I have always thought the policy of Martyn Lloyd-Jones on this point to be good. I understand he refused to have private or public debates on doctrine, for he believed a preacher is called to be a herald and teacher of the truth, not a quarreler and debater. Such counsel would be wise for every believer to take to heart, especially in this age of social media. You know, my dear friends, it is possible to have the doctrine of sovereign grace in the head, but not in the heart. And that is the real problem here. Those who have the doctrines of grace only in the head, will always have a cold, calculated and arrogant spirit to go with it. But those who have the sovereign grace of God in the heart, they will have a warm, clear and humble spirit to flow from it. Let us give all diligence, my dear brethren, to seek from the Lord an application of sovereign grace to our hearts, and then may He bless us to know it in our heads. The 18th century preacher and hymn writer John Berridge spoke on this matter:

Some wise men of opinions boast,
And sleep on doctrines sound;
But, Lord, let not my soul be lost,
On such enchanted ground.

Good doctrines can do me no good,
While floating in the brain;
Unless they yield my heart some food,
They bring no real gain.

O, may my single aim be now,
To live on Him that died;
And nought on earth desire to know,
But Jesus crucified.

Disputings only gender strife,
And gall a tender mind;
But godliness, in all its life,
At Jesus’ cross we find.

Lord, let Thy wondrous cross employ,
My musing all day long;
Till, in the realms of purest joy,
I make it all my song.

And so, I have tried to show you in this study some of the disadvantages associated with using the Five Points of Calvinism as a teaching tool for evangelism and discipleship. First, the Five Points are an academic construct of the gospel, rather than a scripturally shaped framework; Second, the Five Points begins with Total Depravity, whereas the logical order of God’s decree begins with Unconditional Election; Third, the Five Points do not allow much room to discuss other vital doctrines and related issues; Fourth, the Five Points require the use of academic labels, which can be a hindrance when explaining the truth; Fifth, the Five Points, because they are an academic construct, tend to nurture a cold, calculated and arrogant spirit, which flows out from those who use it as a teaching tool for evangelism and discipleship. And of course, while highlighting the disadvantages of the Five Points, I have at the same time advocated for the use of the Framework of Sovereign Grace. I do believe the Framework of Sovereign Grace is a better teaching tool for evangelism and discipleship, and I hope you will consider using it, if not exclusively, then at least along side the Five Points of Calvinism. Well, having given to you in our previous study an explanation on how to use the Five Points of Calvinism as a teaching tool, for the next study, I would like to explain how you can use the Framework of Sovereign Grace as a teaching tool for evangelism and discipleship. Until that time, may you continue to know the blessings of Lord.



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