Our shared values as Sovereign Grace churches aren’t just words on a page. These values shape our life together and are lived out practically in individual churches. In the weeks leading up to the Pastors Conference, several Sovereign Grace pastors will be sharing some thoughts on the seven values, why they are important, and how they function in local churches.
Today, Mark Alderton talks about our first shared value, reformed soteriology.
God does everything to save sinners
One of our shared values in Sovereign Grace churches is what is called “reformed soteriology,” which is a name for how we understand the doctrine of our salvation. If I could state the doctrine simply, it would be this: God does everything from first to last to save sinners; we don’t save ourselves. We’re so dead in our sins that God even has to grant us the repentance and faith in Jesus we need to be saved. Yet this is what God does by his sovereign and merciful choice. Truly the whole process of being saved by grace through faith is the gift of God and not our own doing (Ephesians 2:8–9).
I find that this concept is a bit of an oddity if not an offense to many who visit our church. It has been the reason a good number have decided not to join. So why hold onto this understanding of God’s role in salvation as a core value? Couldn’t we grow more if we put this on the back page somewhere? Well, in good preacher fashion, let me share three points!
Humbling us and exalting God
First, we hold this doctrine dear because it humbles us and exalts God. We need the humility that comes from recognizing that the only thing we contribute to our salvation is our need for it. And we need to give God the credit he deserves for rescuing us out of our hopeless captivity and slavery to sin. This truth has power to create a church environment where we approach God with great joy and approach the lost and broken people around us with great sympathy. After all, our situation wasn’t so different from theirs.
Great assurance in a fallen world
Second, this is the basis for great assurance in a fallen world. Think about Jesus’ strong statements like Mark 13:13: “the one who endures to the end will be saved.” Where is the confidence that we will endure to the end, in light of our often weak faith, and in light of our cultural environment that is increasingly hostile to Christianity? Will we make it, or will we flame out and lose it all? God’s answer is: you will make it, because I am holding onto you. “Those whom he predestined [to salvation]… he also glorified” (Romans 8:30)—no dropouts! This realization gives the church the strength and stability we need to press on with confidence.
Finally, it makes evangelism hopeful. No, we don’t believe that because God does everything to save people, that makes our evangelism unnecessary. To the contrary, we believe it will make evangelism effective! When we go out into our city with the gospel, we seem to be of little power, humanly speaking. How encouraging to know that when the elect hear their Savior call, they will respond! The seed that lands on the good soil will produce a harvest (Luke 8:8, 15). This is freeing, not burdensome, because God will accomplish what we are incapable of.
For those reasons and more, we love the “Sovereign” in “Sovereign Grace.” To God be the glory!
After working as a scientist for 15 years and serving in the local church leadership, Mark Alderton left his career to attend the Sovereign Grace Pastors College in 2002. After graduating, Mark served as a pastor at his home church, Sovereign Grace Church in Minneapolis for five years. In 2008, he moved with his family to Colorado to become the senior pastor of Sovereign Grace Church in Aurora. Mark and his wife, Mary, live in Aurora with their five children.