What is the
DOES REFORMED MEAN?
The term Reformed is a historical term that goes back
almost five centuries. It refers to a period when the church
underwent a Reformation in attempting to return Christianity to
the authority of Scripture. The desire of the Reformation was not
to change God's word but rather to bring the church back into
accord with it. Led by Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, and John
Calvin, the Reformation churches split off from the errors of the
medieval Roman church and began what we know today as
DID THE REFORMERS TEACH?
Martin Luther spent a great deal of time attempting to
convince the church that man was saved by God's grace alone
through faith alone. He believed that all teachings and doctrines
should be based upon Scripture alone. Coupled with the works of
Calvin, these theologians recognized the clear teaching of
Scripture that God is a sovereign God.
They believed that God was not an idle viewer but was active
in all of nature and the affairs of man and that "He who keeps you
will not slumber." (Psalm 121:3). They taught, as did the
apostle Paul, that "in Him we live and move and have our being"
(Acts 17:28). They were sure that God ruled over his
creation sovereignly and that all events came to pass by God's
design, for everything is "according to the purpose of Him who
works all things according to the counsel of his will"
GOD A SOVEREIGN GOD?
Does the Creator of all have the right to do whatever
he wants with the peoples of the earth? The Reformers believed not
only that he had that right but that he exercised his will
righteously and that this principle was clear in Scripture. "All
the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does
according to His will in the army of heaven and among the
inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand or say to
Him, 'What have You done?" (Daniel 4:35) His
sovereignty was especially realized in the salvation of the elect.
The teaching of the French reformer John Calvin emphasized the
sovereignty of God and his work is often summarized in the "Five
Points of Calvinism." The simple acronym "TULIP" explains these
ABOUT A TULIP?
Early Protestant leaders found that they had to defend
the scriptural teachings of the sovereignty of God against those
who denied God these rights. Many felt that salvation was at least
in part by their own hands and were aggravated that anyone would
bring this pride under the authority of Scripture. Church leaders
valiantly proclaimed the biblical answer to this attack on God's
rightful place as Lord over his creation.
Depravity: Man in his fallen, sinful state, "does
not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are
foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are
spiritually discerned." (1Cor. 2:14). God's own
assessment of the descendents of Adam's fallen race was "that
the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every
intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually."
(Gen. 6:5; 8:21). All the "good" that man thinks he does
throughout his life is but "filthy rags" (Isaiah 64:6).
What was true of King David is also true of us all that we must
realize that we were, "brought forth in iniquity and in sin my
mother conceived me." (Psalm 51:5). Natural man is not
sick, not terminally ill, but DEAD. The Apostle Paul reminds
those who are Christians of their past when he graphically
says, "And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and
sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this
world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the
spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom
also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh,
fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were
by nature children of wrath, just as the others." (Ephesians
Election: God has chosen "us in Him before the
foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without
blame before Him in love" (Ephesians 1:4). This means
that those who will be saved are those who have been chosen to
be saved by the sovereign Lord - "I will have mercy on whom I
have mercy" (Romans 9:15). He does not base his election
on any condition within man, "lest anyone should boast"
Atonement: Christ's atonement is specifically for
his people - "I lay down my life for the sheep" (John
10:15). He did not shed his blood for those who would not
come to him. He has not paid the price for their sin - this
they must do on their own. "I pray for them. I do not pray for
the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are
Yours." (John 17:9).
Grace: Those whom he has chosen will surely come
to him. "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they
follow Me." (John 10:27). "All that the Father gives Me
will come to Me, . ." (John 6:37) God sends his Holy Spirit to
work in the hearts of his elect; "I will give you a new heart
and put a new spirit in you" (Ezekiel 36:26). "No one
can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him;"
(John 6:44). "For God's gifts and his call are
irrevocable" (Romans 11:29).
of the Saints: "My Father, who has given them to
me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my
Father's hand" (John 10:29). "and you shall call His
name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins."
(Matthew 1:21). Salvation was not merited by any, nor is
the election of his true sheep ever purchased by the believer,
for "he who began a good work in you will carry it on to
completion until the day of Christ Jesus" (Phillipians
Much of what Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, and other
reformers taught has been challenged by those who believe that God
can be sovereign but has chosen to give up some of his control so
that man's freedom is not limited. These challenges are often
based upon the beliefs of James Arminius, a Dutch seminary
professor. His followers are called Arminians and deny the
teaching of Reformed theology, especially as it considers man's
individual worth. They do not believe that man is spiritually
dead, but that he is only sick with sin.
While Calvinism holds that man is saved by unconditional
grace, Arminians teach that man is saved by grace based upon a
condition. The condition is that each person must develop in
themselves a belief in God and reach out for God's grace. The
Reformers taught that man has no power to save himself and it is
solely God's Spirit that gives believers new life and faith. The
challengers taught that man has at least enough worth to be able
to meet the conditions of God's grace.
IS THE REFORMED FAITH IMPORTANT TODAY?
The Reformers four centuries ago sought to humble man
and exalt God. This objective has been carried on from the
beginning of time until now by those who desire to know the Lord
of hosts. Reformed churches believe that "the fear of the Lord is
the beginning of wisdom" (Proverbs 9:10). They want to
teach and share the word of God in and out of season so that
Christ's church may benefit from sound doctrine that exhorts a
believer to a deeper appreciation of the God whom is to be
The Reformed Faith is so important today because many
"Christian" churches do not teach nor believe in the Bible. It's
frightening to realize that many modern churches question such
basic truths as the divinity of Christ and his
One cannot merely say, "well, it doesn't matter what you
believe - it's just important to believe something." No matter
what the world would have us believe, doctrine is important. What
we believe is critically important. In the Book of Acts, the
Bereans "received the word with all readiness, and searched the
Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so."
It is certainly true that there are many churches which
clearly teach the entire Word of God. It is not the intention here
to imply that one can not be saved unless one is a member of a
Reformed church. That is not true. The intention here is to point
to a system of faith and theology which most closely follows the
Word of God.
Adapted from "Why Are We Reformed?"
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Calvinism and Arminianism Compared