Doctrines in Christian Theology
Doctrines of Election and Reprobation
Election and reprobation are two related but distinct theological concepts that are often discussed in the context of Christian theology.
Election refers to the idea that God has chosen specific individuals or groups of people for salvation. According to this doctrine, God’s choice is based solely on His Sovereign Grace and not on anything the individual has done or will do. This doctrine is often associated with the Calvinist tradition, which teaches that God’s choice is unconditional and irrevocable.
Reprobation, on the other hand, refers to the idea that God has chosen to pass over specific individuals or groups of people, leaving them in their state of sin and rebellion. According to this doctrine, God’s decision to pass over these individuals is also based on His Sovereign Grace and is not a result of anything the individual has done or will do. This doctrine is also associated with the Calvinist tradition, which teaches that God’s decision to pass over these individuals is a just punishment for their sin and rebellion.
Both Election and Reprobation are controversial doctrines that have been debated throughout Christian history. Some Christians believe that Scripture supports these doctrines, while others believe that they are incompatible with the character of God as revealed in the Bible.
Regardless of one’s theological position on these doctrines, it is essential to approach these concepts with humility and respect, recognizing that they are complex and challenging to understand fully. At the heart of the Christian faith is the belief that God’s Love and Grace are freely available to all who turn to Him in repentance and faith, and it is this message of Salvation that Christians are called to share with the world.
Election and reprobation are closely related to the doctrine of Predestination, which teaches that God has foreordained the destiny of every individual. The details of these doctrines are:
The Doctrine of Election:
- The Doctrine of Election is based on the belief that God’s choice is unconditional and not based on any merit or worthiness of the individual. This doctrine emphasizes the sovereignty of God and the undeserved nature of salvation.
- The doctrine of election can be a source of comfort and assurance for believers, knowing that their salvation is secure in the hands of a sovereign and loving God. However, it can also be a source of confusion and concern for those who struggle with God’s choice and the fate of those who are not elected.
The Doctrine of Reprobation
- The Doctrine of Reprobation teaches that God has chosen to withhold His grace from specific individuals, leaving them in their state of sin and rebellion. This doctrine emphasizes the justice of God and the seriousness of sin.
- The Doctrine of Reprobation can be a complex and controversial topic, as it raises questions about the fairness and justice of God. However, it is essential to remember that God’s ways are higher than ours and that we must trust in His character and goodness, even when we do not fully understand His actions.
Some Christians believe in a Doctrine of Conditional Election, which teaches that God’s choice is based on foreknowledge of the individual’s faith and obedience rather than being unconditional. This view is often associated with the Arminian tradition. Overall, the Doctrines of Election and Reprobation are complex and challenging topics that require careful study and reflection. While these doctrines can be difficult to reconcile with our human understanding of justice and fairness, they remind us of the Sovereignty and Grace of God and the importance of trusting in His Wisdom and Love.
Doctrine of Regeneration
Regeneration is the spiritual work of the Holy Spirit in which He brings about a new birth or a new creation in the life of a believer. It is a central doctrine in Christian theology closely related to Salvation and Sanctification.
Some critical points about Regeneration:
- Regeneration is a supernatural work of God in a person’s life. It is not something that can be achieved through human effort or willpower.
- Regeneration is necessary for salvation. Without regeneration, a person cannot enter the kingdom of God (John 3:3-5).
- Regeneration is a one-time event that occurs at the moment of salvation. It is not something that can be repeated or undone.
- Regeneration is characterized by a radical transformation in the believer’s life. The old self is put to death, and the new self is created in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).
- Regeneration is accompanied by faith and repentance. A person who has been regenerated will trust in Christ for salvation and turn away from sin.
- Regeneration is a work of the Holy Spirit based on the merits of Christ’s atoning work on the cross. It is not based on any merit or worthiness on the part of the individual.
- Regeneration is the beginning of the sanctification process. It is the first step in a lifelong journey of growing in Christlikeness.
- Regeneration is a mystery that cannot be fully understood or explained. It is a supernatural work of God that is beyond human comprehension.
- Regeneration is a work of God’s grace. It cannot be earned or deserved but is a gift given to those who believe in Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9).
- Regeneration is a change in the heart or innermost being of the person. It is not simply a change in behavior or outward actions but a transformation that affects the whole person.
- Regeneration is necessary because of the fallen state of humanity. Because of Adam’s sin, all people are born with a sinful nature and are spiritually dead (Romans 5:12).
- Regeneration is a work of God’s sovereignty. He chooses whom He will regenerate, and it is not dependent on human choice or effort (John 1:12-13).
- Regeneration is a work that is closely related to the work of justification. Justification is the legal declaration of righteousness given to those who believe in Christ, while regeneration is the inward transformation accompanying it.
- Regeneration is a work that is unique to the Christian faith. It is not found in any other religion or philosophy and testifies to Christ’s uniqueness and His saving work.
- Regeneration is a work confirmed and sealed by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit bears witness with our Spirit that we are children of God (Romans 8:16), and He seals us for the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30).
- Regeneration is a work that is not reversible. Once a person has been regenerated, they are forever changed and will persevere in faith until the end (John 10:28-29).
In summary, Regeneration is necessary for Salvation and is accompanied by Faith and Repentance. Regeneration begins the Sanctification process and is a mystery that cannot be fully understood or explained. It is a change in the heart and is necessary because of the fallen state of humanity. Regeneration is a work of God’s Sovereignty closely related to justification and confirmed and sealed by the Holy Spirit. Once a person has been regenerated, they are forever changed and will persevere in faith until the end.
Doctrine of Conversion (Faith and Repentance)
Conversion refers to turning a person from unbelief to faith in Christ and from sin to repentance and obedience to God. It involves faith and repentance, two sides of the same coin. Faith is the act of trusting in Christ for salvation. It is a gift of God that enables a person to believe in Jesus as the Son of God and to trust in Him for the forgiveness of sins and eternal life. Faith involves intellectual assent to the gospel’s truth but also a personal trust in Christ as Savior and Lord. It is not a mere intellectual exercise but a heart response to the grace of God. Repentance is turning away from sin and turning toward God. It involves a change of mind, a change of heart, and a change of direction. Repentance means recognizing the seriousness of sin, feeling sorrow for it, confessing it to God, and committing to turn away from it and live for Christ.
It is a necessary response to the Gospel, as Jesus proclaimed, “Repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15).
- Conversion is a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit. It cannot be achieved by human effort or willpower but is a gift of God (John 6:44).
- Conversion is a one-time event, but it is also a lifelong process. It involves a radical change at the moment of salvation but ongoing growth and transformation in the Christian life.
- Conversion is a response to the gospel message. Through the preaching of the gospel, the Holy Spirit convicts people of sin, righteousness, and judgment and draws them to Christ (Romans 10:17).
- Conversion involves a public confession of faith. Jesus Himself said, “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven” (Matthew 10:32).
- Conversion results in a new identity as a child of God. Through faith in Christ, believers are adopted into God’s family and become heirs of eternal life (Galatians 3:26).
- Conversion involves a change of allegiance. Believers are no longer slaves to sin but are now servants of Christ, called to obey and follow Him (Romans 6:17-18).
In summary, conversion involves faith and repentance and is a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit. It responds to the Gospel message and results in a new identity as a child of God. Conversion is a one-time event but also involves ongoing growth and transformation in the Christian life.
Repentance is the act of turning away from sin and turning toward God. It is a necessary response to the gospel and is often mentioned alongside faith as a requirement for salvation.
- Repentance is a change of mind. It involves changing how we think about sin, God, and ourselves. Instead of justifying or ignoring our sin, we acknowledge it as an offense against God and turn away from it.
- Repentance is a change of heart. It involves a deep sorrow for our sins and a desire to be reconciled to God. It is not just a surface-level emotion but a genuine conviction that leads to a desire to change.
- Repentance is a change of direction. It involves a turning away from sin and a turning toward God. It is not just a one-time event but an ongoing process of putting off the old self and putting on the new self (Ephesians 4:22-24).
- Repentance involves confession of sin. It is not enough to feel wrong about our sins; we must confess them to God and ask for His forgiveness. Confession involves acknowledging our sin and accepting responsibility for it.
- Repentance leads to fruit in keeping with repentance. It means that a change in behavior evidences true repentance. We cannot claim to have repented if we continue to live in sin (Matthew 3:8).
- Repentance is not just for unbelievers but for believers as well. We all struggle with sin, and we must continually repent and turn to God to grow our relationship.
In summary, Repentance is a necessary response to the Gospel that involves a change of mind, a change of heart, and a change of direction. It involves confession of sin, leading to a change in behavior. Repentance is an ongoing process that is necessary for both unbelievers and believers.
Faith is the other essential component of conversion, along with repentance. Here are some additional points about faith in conversion:
- Faith is a gift from God. We cannot conjure up faith on our own; it is something God graciously gives us (Ephesians 2:8-9). Faith is how we receive salvation, but it is not something we can generate ourselves.
- Faith involves intellectual assent. We must believe that Jesus is who He said He was and has the power to save us from our sins. It requires a certain level of intellectual understanding of the gospel message.
- Faith involves trust. We must not only believe that Jesus can save us, but we must also trust in Him to do so. This means putting our complete confidence in Him rather than our abilities or works.
- Faith involves surrender. We must be willing to surrender our lives to Christ, submitting to His lordship over us. It means recognizing that He is in control and that we are not.
- Faith involves obedience. True faith always results in obedience to God’s commands. This does not mean that we earn our salvation through works, but rather that our obedience is evidence of our faith (James 2:14-26).
- Faith is ongoing. We do not just exercise faith once and then forget about it; instead, we are called to continue in faith throughout our lives. It involves growing our knowledge and understanding of God and continuing to trust Him even when we face difficult circumstances.
In summary, faith is a gift from God that involves intellectual assent, trust, surrender, obedience, and ongoing growth. It is how we receive Salvation, and it is a necessary component of conversion along with repentance.
The Doctrine of Justification (Right Legal Standing Before God)
Justification is a crucial doctrine in systematic theology that refers to the legal standing of believers before God.
Here are some points about Justification:
- Justification is a declaration of righteousness: When we are justified, God declares us to be righteous in His sight, even though we are naturally sinners and have disobeyed His commands. That is not a process of becoming righteous but rather a legal declaration. This declaration is made based on Christ’s righteousness, which is imputed to us by faith.
- Justification is by grace through faith: We cannot earn justification through our works or efforts; it is a gift of God that is received by faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-9). This faith is not a worthy work but a humble trust in God’s grace and mercy.
- Justification is based on the work of Christ: We are justified not because of anything we have done but because of what Christ has done on our behalf. His perfect obedience and sacrificial death on the cross justify our justification.
- Justification is not based on our righteousness: Our righteousness is like filthy rags in God’s sight (Isaiah 64:6). We are justified solely based on Christ’s righteousness, which is imputed to us by faith. Our righteousness is not enough to save us. Our best efforts are like filthy rags in God’s sight. We are justified solely based on Christ’s righteousness, which is imputed to us by faith.
- Justification is a once-for-all declaration: When justified, it is a permanent declaration that cannot be revoked. We do not need to work to maintain our justification continually; it is a gift that is secure in Christ. That is why some theologians refer to justification as “eternal justification.”
- Justification is a present reality: Although we will not be entirely free from sin until we are glorified in heaven, we are already declared righteous in Christ. This gives us confidence and assurance in our relationship with God. We can approach Him with boldness and assurance, knowing that our sins are forgiven and that we have been declared righteous in His sight.
- Justification is not the same as sanctification: While justification and sanctification are both essential aspects of our salvation, they are not the same. Justification is a legal declaration that we are righteous in God’s sight, while sanctification is the ongoing process of becoming more like Christ in our thoughts, attitudes, and actions.
- Justification is not a license to sin: Although we are declared righteous in Christ, this does not mean we can live however we please. Instead, it is a call to live a life of gratitude and obedience to God. As Paul writes in Romans 6:1-2, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?”
- Justification is a central theme in the Bible: The doctrine of justification is a prominent theme throughout the entire Bible, from the story of Abraham in the Old Testament to the teachings of Jesus and the apostles in the New Testament. It is a reminder of God’s grace and mercy and of the central role that Christ plays in our salvation.
- Justification is a source of great comfort: For those who have been justified by faith, there is great comfort in knowing that our sins are forgiven and that we are declared righteous in God’s sight. It gives us hope and assurance, even in trials and difficulties. As Paul writes in Romans 8:1, “There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.”
Overall, Justification is a foundational doctrine of the Christian faith. It reminds us that our Salvation is not based on our works or merit but on the finished work of Christ on our behalf.
It is a gift of God that we receive by faith alone and a permanent declaration of our righteousness in Christ.
In summary, Justification is a declaration of righteousness received by faith in Christ alone. It is based on the work of Christ and not our righteousness, and it is a permanent, present reality for believers.