I remember fighting the doctrines of grace during my university days. Perhaps it was the moniker, “Calvinism” that put me on edge. I remember believing in perseverance of the saints (inconsistently I might add), but rejecting the other points of Calvinism. While I affirmed the doctrine of sin, like all Arminians – I refused to embrace the doctrine of radical depravity. I held to election according to foreknowledge but denied the doctrine of unconditional election. I believed that God’s grace could be resisted in an ultimate sense (which is rooted in a robust belief in libertarian free will) and I found the doctrine of limited atonement deplorable.
I remember battling with my roommate in Bible College, mustering every argument I could to defend my rather fragile Arminian stance. However, in the late 80’s my Arminian worldview came apart at the seams and my semi-Pelagian presuppositions were rendered useless on the safe shore of God’s truth. First, the book of Romans dealt a devastating blow to my man-centered theological views. Ephesians, the Gospel of John, and Galatians moved in and graciously woke me up. R.C. Sproul’s book, Chosen by God confirmed what I was learning about the doctrines of grace and God’s redemptive purposes. John Piper’s book, The Pleasures of God played a huge role in my thinking during those days.
Five Points by John Piper is a short but powerful summary of the doctrines of grace. The author’s aim is to “persuade the mind concerning biblical truth and thus awaken a deeper experience of God’s sovereign grace.” And he succeeds at every level. The historical roots of the debate are explored which provide a helpful context to this much debated topic. Piper maintains, “These five points are still at the heart of biblical theology. They are not unimportant. Where we stand on these things deeply affects our view of God, man, salvation, the atonement, regeneration, assurance, worship, and missions.”
The next five chapters unpack the doctrines of grace, carefully. While Piper rightly utilizes logic, the main driver is Scripture – which supports the five points throughout. The arguments are clear and compelling and serve to magnify the greatness of God’s worth and lead worshippers to a deeper experience of God’s grace.
Piper includes some helpful personal reflections and shares how the doctrines of grace have revolutionized his life:
1. These truths make me stand in awe of God and lead me into the depth of true God-centered worship.
2. These truths help protect me from trifling with divine things.
3. These truths make me marvel at my own salvation.
4. These truths make me alert to man-centered substitutes that pose as good news.
5. These truths make me groan over the indescribable disease of our secular, God-belittling culture.
6. These truths make me confident that the work which God planned and began, he will finish – both globally and personally.
7. These truths make me see everything in the light of God’s sovereign purposes – that from him and through him and to him are all things, to him be glory forever, and ever.
8. These truths make me hopeful that God has the will, the right, and the power to answer prayer that people be changed.
9. These truths remind me that evangelism is absolutely essential for people to come to Christ and be saved, and that there is great hope for success in leading people to faith but that conversion is not finally dependent on me or limited by the hardness of the unbeliever.
10. These truths make me sure that God will triumph in the end.
In the end, John Piper makes his point and leaves no room for misunderstanding. This powerful little primer deserves a wide readership and is destined to help many as their navigate their way to the Celestial City. Soli Deo Gloria!