As we quickly approach the five hundred year anniversary of the Reformation I pause to reflect on how the Reformation impacted me the most particularly with respect to the Doctrines of Grace. To many Calvinism has become simply a trend something that you don’t squabble about because the famous pastors and the famous authors all seem to subscribe to it. For me, the Doctrines of Grace are a reflection of the grandeur of God’s character and glory. They are a reflection of the fact that the world does not revolve around me. Of course this is one of the central effects about Calvinism, they make God central, primary, supreme and man find his rightful place in the universe as a creature who exists for the glory of the Creator (cf. Is. 43.7). It was not as if I made a conscious decision to be so self-centered and so egotistic as to ever think that the world truly revolved around me, but when God reveals himself as the center of all things that He might be all and in all, that bit of revelation is uniquely humbling. As I began to grasp the Doctrines of Grace point by point I began to see that much of my thinking was wrong. I began to see how much of my thinking was rooted in philosophy and Humanism and how little of my thinking was driven exclusively from the exegesis of scripture. Of course this is also owing to the Reformation and its emphasis upon the doctrine of Sola Scriptura. That is where Calvinism comes from and that is where Calvinism is rooted— in the self-authenticating, self-sustaining, self-sufficient revelation of God in Scripture. And for me the Doctrines of Grace are rooted in the biblical conviction that God is Sovereign over all things (cf. Ps. 115.3; John 3.27). The sovereignty of God elevated my view of everything. The whole life was to be lived for God’s glory now. A life that once was meaningless suddenly had the greatest meaning of all in light of the glory of God as life’s ultimate aim. Every sphere of our lives will either glorify Him or dishonor Him in some way (cf. 1 Cor. 10.31). This was such a great asset at the work place. The drudgery of having to clock in day after day suddenly felt redeemed by God and my work week was often filled with a new sense of evangelistic zeal and purpose.
The soul-deflating power of fatalism was extinguished. It is the sovereignty of God that gives everything its meaning and purpose because all things are not only decreed by God, but they find their purpose in God and from God. Instead of clocking in to win a paycheck, I was clocking in to win a soul (although I did not do this perfectly, I did it nonetheless). Of course, all of my trials, my sufferings, and afflictions began to have new meaning, new purpose, and the future was now secure in the hands of a sovereign God. The sovereignty of God began to purge me of my old worldly wisdom. The worldly mantras of the past began to fade in the light of God’s perfect and wise sovereign purposes. Those worldly maxims were trivial and shallow in the light of God’s infinite wisdom and sovereignty. It wasn’t just wishful thinking that ‘things would work out for my good,’ it was that God had ordained my good (cf. Rom. 8.28), my everlasting good in the sovereignty of His covenant faithfulness (cf. Is. 32.40). Wishful thinking turned into covenantal confidence.
It was also the sovereignty of God that settled the issue of Theodacy (the problem of evil). Where as before evil posed a great threat to my personal worldview, not being able to account for its existence and its prevalence in a world that seemed out of control. The sovereignty of God although it did not clarify everything (due only to my immaturity and ignorance), it certainly clarified the main things. That evil itself is not something out of God’s control but something that is subservient to the overarching plan of redemption. The entrance of sin into the world being decreed by God meant that it exists for the greatest purpose of all, for whatever God’s purpose was for it to exist in the first place, ultimately to glorify His holiness and His justice and His wisdom and grace. Although I will never come to the bottom of these things, the sovereignty of God helps me to see that evil is not supreme, God is. We’ll see more of this as we consider that in God’s sovereignty, the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, the greatest redemptive act of all, is not trivial, accidental or tragic but in harmony with God’s sovereign plan to redeem a particular people for Himself through the work of the Son.
Soli Deo Gloria
Emilio Ramos is the preaching pastor of Heritage Grace Community Church. Pastor Emilio is committed to the expository and exegetical teaching of the Word of God. Emilio is also the author of Convert, From Adam to Christ and the founder of redgracemedia.com- a media ministry devoted to the glory of God’s redemptive grace through Jesus Christ. He and his wife Trisha live in Dallas, TX.