The late J.I. Packer in his introductory essay to John Owen’s The Death of Death in the Death of Christ (London: Banner of Truth, 1959) boiled the five points of Calvinism (Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Definite Atonement, Effectual Calling, and Preserving Grace) to the main truth that really is the foundation to all of the others.
God saves sinners.
“God saves sinners—and the force of this confession may not be weakened by disrupting the unity of the work of the Trinity, or by dividing the achievement of salvation between God and man and making the decisive part man’s own, or by soft-pedaling the sinner’s inability so as to allow him to share the praise of his salvation with his Saviour. This is the one point of Calvinistic soteriology which the ‘five points’ are concerned to establish and Arminianism in all its forms to deny: namely, that sinners do not save themselves in any sense at all, but that salvation, first and last, whole and entire, past, present and future, is of the Lord, to whom be glory for ever; amen.”
This is really the point of the doctrines of grace. I will add, that my brothers and sisters in Christ who embrace Arminianism would object they are trying to deny the truth that God saves sinners. I think most embrace that particular soteriology not because they don’t believe that God saves sinners. If they didn’t believe God saves sinners then their disagreement is with scripture, not John Calvin.
They get hung up on the idea of election or definite atonement (also called limited atonement, but I’m not a fan of that term).
I believe in these doctrines, not because of John Calvin, I believe them because they are biblical truth no matter how hard they are to understand or how it doesn’t mesh with our skewed view of what is fair.
No one entering heaven would be fair because all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We don’t measure up, not even close, there is nothing absolutely nothing we can do to balance the ledger. Without Christ we are spiritually dead, slaves to sin, and quite literally enemies of God.
But, thankfully, God saves sinners.
Dead sinners can’t make themselves to be live saints. Hearts that are stone can’t will themselves to become flesh.
We can’t transform ourselves, but praise Jesus, God saves sinners.
The whole point of the doctrines of grace is not to be spiritually proud, quite them opposite. I’m humbled because God saves sinners.
It makes me think of the lyrics of Amazing Grace written by John Newton (who, by the way, believed in the doctrines of grace).
How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now I'm found
Was blind, but now I see
There’s not a thing I did myself. God saved. God found. God restored my sight. Looking at the second and third verses:
'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear And grace my fears relieved How precious did that grace appear The hour I first believed My chains are gone I've been set free My God, my Savior has ransomed me And like a flood, His mercy rains Unending love, Amazing grace
God takes the initiative. Jesus has ransomed us. He put death to death. He extends His grace. He transforms. He leads. He opens our eyes to we can understand the truth. He gives us grace so we can believe.
God saves sinners. What fabulous news!