This is a transcript of my talk ( session 2) given to the SOLA 5 Conference 2015 .
Any organisation - and SOLA 5 is an organisation of God centered churches in Southern Africa - any such organisation is in need of periodic review and of course correction. You know how a little deviation at the beginning can later lead to a significant deviation from the true destination. A ship that sets course from Cape Town, say to Hamburg in Germany, veering only a marginal and insignificant 1 degree from its course at the beginning and maintaining such a deviation, will in due time find itself hundreds of nautical miles off course. It will never reach Hamburg by ignoring the compass.
SOLA 5 has a compass. It is called ‘SOLA SCRIPTURA’. The Bible is our only reliable compass by which we navigate the treacherous waters of this world, to bring us into the safe harbour of heaven. Until we get there let our consciences be bound by the Scriptures, given to us by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
This is not easy. I remind you that sin and decay and all their ugly cousins, such as deceit, pride, laziness and compromise are forever with us, calling us from their various places on the corners of every street and from the market place (Prov. 7:12), seeking to lead us away from the purity of the Word. Since decay (the second law of thermodynamics) is written into the DNA of this fallen world, leaving not even the church untouched, it is always necessary that she should adjust her course by the navigational standards prescribed in the Word of God.
The British poet T.S. Elliot understood this when he wrote :
“… here upon earth you have the reward of the good and ill that was done by those who have gone before you.
And all that is ill you may repair if you walk together in humble repentance, expiating the sins of your fathers;
And all that was good you must fight to keep with hearts as devoted as those of your fathers who fought to gain it.
The Church must be forever building, for it is forever decaying within and attacked from without;
For this is the law of life; and you must remember that while there is time of prosperity .
The people will neglect the Temple, and in time of adversity they will decry it.
What life have you if you have not life together?
There is no life that is not in community, and no community not lived in praise of God…
I remind you that SOLA 5 was founded in April 2005 as a community to the praise of God (SOLI DEO GLORIA), and 10 years later we have not only seen progress, but there can be no doubt that we have also been subjected to decay and resultant fatigue as a result of the relentless battle.
Why then are we here? The founding fathers, if you may call them that, have called this organisation into being for a time such as this,in order to provide for an unambiguous and a shared identity for those that are committed to the historic faith, the gospel as it was once preached by the apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ, and many others since them, not forgetting the Reformers of the 16th century . The Reformers were given the grace to restore the centrality of the Word to the world in their time.
The solemn fact is this: From one generation to the next the gospel may be lost, if we do not uphold it and pass it on in our own day. We, as churches identifying with SOLA 5, and in co- operation with all those of similar conviction, are called to uphold the gospel in this generation.
Our founding fathers wanted a forum for glorifying God our Father through a living attachment to our Lord Jesus, living by the power of the Holy Spirit, within the framework of a robust dependence upon the written Word of God, issuing in the manifestation of a God centered life of faith, living in dependence upon divine grace, and issuing in a gracious and winsome way of living. In this we have wanted to create a forum for prayer and awareness concerning the work of God in Southern Africa and beyond. We have wanted a mutual accountability among ourselves. We have dreamed of publishing sound evangelistic and theological material. We have thought of a website and conferences such as this one , and many other interactive forums by which we can stay in touch with each other. We have spoken much about the need of theological education and of missionary co-operation and of mutual support in church planting ventures.
How then have we been doing? And how shall we ensure that what we believe to be essential and biblical to do in this age, in which we are privileged to carry the torch for a little while - how shall we ensure that we shall be faithful to our Lord Jesus, our heavenly and soon coming bridegroom?
In the case of SOLA 5 we must understand that we are not a geographically closely knit community. We are separated by great distances. Lusaka is over 3000 kilometres from Cape Town. The basis of our association can therefore not be based on proximity or ease of access to one another. We do, of course, have a distinct advantage in terms of the various modern means of communication, but the reality remains that we are as widely separated as Athens in Greece, and Ephesus in Asia Minor, and Antioch in Syria were separated from Jerusalem in Israel. And yet, it is remarkable, is it not, that these churches did maintain a unique fellowship in their day.
Here’s the reason why. The apostle Paul worked hard to keep these distant churches in touch.
Here’s the reason why. The apostle Paul worked hard to keep these distant churches in touch.
Firstly by constantly taking people along with him to and from these various areas where he had sown the gospel seeds . In that process he always connected and introduced men and women from these various churches to one another. The 16th chapter of Romans provides an impressive list of Paul’s contacts and relationships in the world. He also had many travel companions, men such as Barnabas the encourager and Luke the Physician (Col. 4:14) on his outward journeys. He took Timothy, born in the Greek world, back to Jerusalem, where he also had him circumcised in order not to give offence to the Jewish brothers in Jerusalem (Acts 16:1-3). Paul also constantly gave feedback to the churches that supported his mission to the gentiles (Acts 14:27 –Antioch and Acts 15- Jerusalem). Paul was a true communicator and as such he serves as a real model for us today.
Secondly, by keeping the churches in touch with gospel truths (e.g. 1 Corinthians 15:1-11) and with sound doctrine by means of his apostolic letters which were shared among the churches (e.g. Col. 4:16). The churches in Paul’s generation therefore stayed connected in the truth, as they were constantly made aware of the heart of the gospel (and also the threats against the gospel), as well as being aware of one another’s existential difficulties, challenges and encouragements. Paul also created an awareness of the needs that existed in some of these new churches (e.g. the economic difficulties of the Jerusalem church ) and then encouraged other distant churches (e.g. the Macedonians - 2 Cor. 8&9) to help their brothers and sisters.
One grand truth however stands out above all regarding Paul’s mission. The association that Paul had in mind among the churches was founded not primarily on principles of friendship or social engagement, though it undoubtedly included those elements, but it was founded primarily on the gospel of Christ. Jesus was the sum and the substance of what Paul preached everywhere, and so churches everywhere, whether in Athens, Corinth, Philippi, Ephesus , Antioch or Jerusalem were primarily connected and founded and built on that same gospel basis. The practical details and the very real social problems that surrounded each church became something that was going to be worked out in the context of the gospel.
But it is that word ‘gospel’, that is in constant need of clarification. We do not have time to consider the many aberrant versions of what is claimed to be the gospel, e.g. the way in which the health, wealth and prosperity movement, or the social gospel of the liberals define the gospel. My task is now to help you to clarify the heart of SOLA 5, defining the gospel in terms of what is known as the doctrines of Grace.
I trust that you are not unfamiliar with the concept of the Doctrines of Grace. Allow me to briefly remind you concerning these. The Doctrines of Grace are sometimes also known as the five points of Calvinism, which also sometimes have been summed up in the acronym TULIP:
· Total Depravity
· Unconditional Election
· Limited Atonement
· Irresistible Grace
· Perseverance of the Saints
This acronym came about somewhat indirectly as the result of a controversy which had developed around the teachings of a man named Jacobus Arminius  (1560-1609), who was a professor at the University of Leiden, in Holland. He began a doctrinal dispute by publishing five articles against John Calvin’s  (1509 – 1564) basic teachings concerning the nature of the biblical doctrine of salvation, as they were described in the Belgic Confession and also in the Heidelberg Catechism.
He wanted to revise these confessions, in a subtle way. He said in essence , “yes, there was a fall; yes, there is such a thing as original sin; yes, the constituent nature of humanity has been changed by this state of corruption and all parts of our humanity have been significantly weakened by the fall, so much so that without the assistance of divine grace nobody can possibly be redeemed, so that grace is not only helpful but it’s absolutely necessary for salvation.”
But then he went on to also say this, in essence : “While we are so fallen that we can’t be saved without grace, we are not so fallen that we don’t have the ability to accept or reject the grace when it’s offered to us. The will is weakened but is not enslaved. There remains in the core of our being an island of righteousness that remains untouched by the fall. It’s out of that little island of righteousness, that little parcel of goodness that is still intact in the soul or in the will that is the determinative difference between heaven and hell. It’s that little island that must be exercised when God does his thousand steps of reaching out to us, but in the final analysis it’s that one step that we take that determines whether we go to heaven or hell — whether we exercise that little righteousness that is in the core of our being or whether we don’t. “ 
Arminius was never able to conclude his disputation , for he died rather suddenly, in 1609, at the age of 49. His teaching was propagated by his followers, who were also known as “the Remonstrants”. These were subsequently taken to task by the synods of Dort in Holland in 1618 and 1619, at which time ‘Arminianism’ was declared an ‘anathema’.
The formulation of the five points of Calvinism, or as we prefer to call it, ‘The Doctrines of Grace’ became the response to Arminius’ so called five disputations. To be clear, the actual acronym TULIP , which we commonly use today as a summary of the Doctrines of Grace, was not used at that time, for TULIP is an English and not a Dutch acronym. The earliest use of TULIP has been attributed to Cleland Boyd McAfee in 1905, when he delivered a lecture to the Presbyterian Union, in Newark, New Jersey. But it was apparently Lorraine Boettner in his popular book, “The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination” (first published in 1932)  , that popularized the use of TULIP.
The Relevance of this old debate for our day
So what does this 400 year old debate have to do with our times? Why has the Steering Committee asked me to speak to you concerning this?
I began my paper by pointing out the ever present danger of losing the true gospel, due to a subtle departure from the biblical course. I remind you, brothers and sisters, that the gospel is easily lost if we are not careful and prayerful expositors of the Bible. The Old Covenant people of the Exodus generation lost their adherence to the truth within the span of a single generation, because they disregarded the Word that God spoke through Moses.
The New Covenant people faced the same dilemma. Consider both, the Galatian and Corinthian churches. Both were in danger of losing the gospel, because in both churches the members were beginning to submit to the opinions of men rather than the plain Word of God, which reminds us that Christ, and not human personalities are central to the life of the church. Listen for instance to Paul's perplexity as he pours out his heart to the Galatians who had been taken captive by false teachers:
“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.” (Gal. 1:6,7)
Paul clearly saw what this deviation would accomplish in the Galatian and in the Corinthian churches, where legalism and libertinism respectively were threatening to undermine the gospel foundations that Paul had so clearly established as an expert builder (1 Cor. 3:10).
Now the matters that Arminius disputed concerning Calvin and Luther’s understanding of the nature of salvation was in essence a deviation from the biblical course and the Synod of Dort had the wisdom to see this.
This is in fact an age old and an ongoing dispute in the Christian church- at least as long as she has existed. This dispute has reared its head many times, and in many different ways in the course of church history.
I remind you that long before the so-called the ‘ Arminius vs. Calvin debate’ there was the ‘Pelagius vs Augustine’ controversy in the 5th century AD, which ran along similar lines. Pelagius (ca.354 – 420 AD) was an English monk who lived in Rome in Augustine's (354 – 430 AD) day. He categorically denied the doctrine of original sin, and asserted that human nature is good and able to do all it is commanded to do. Therefore Pelagius was shocked when he read in Augustine's Confessions, "Give me the grace [O Lord] to do as you command, and command me to do what you will! . . . O holy God . . . when your commands are obeyed, it is from you that we receive the power to obey them." Pelagius saw this as an assault on human goodness and freedom and responsibility.
The same thing is true about the theological differences between George Whitefield and John Wesley (1703-1791). While Whitefield was a so called ‘Calvinist’, Wesley was a self proclaimed ‘Arminian’. Iain Murray writes in an article  :
From the time of his conversion in 1735, Whitefield had been profoundly conscious of man's entire depravity, his need of the new birth, and the fact that God can save and God alone. Describing an experience which occurred a few weeks after his conversion, he wrote: "About this time God was pleased to enlighten my soul, and bring me into the knowledge of His free grace . . ." Strengthened by his reading of the Scriptures, the Reformers and the Puritans, Whitefield gradually grasped the great related chain of truths revealed in the New Testament—the Father's electing love, Christ's substitutionary death on behalf of those whom the Father had given Him, and the Spirit's infallible work in bringing to salvation those for whom it was appointed. These doctrines of "free grace" were the essential theology of his ministry from the very first and consequently the theology of the movement which began under his preaching in 1737.
The fact is that while John Wesley had at his conversion in May 1738 accepted evangelical views on sin, faith, and the re-birth, he had at the same time retained his pre-conversion opinions on the doctrines of predestination and the extent of the atonement. As the religious influences which had moulded Wesley prior to his conversion were High Anglican, it is not surprising that these opinions were Arminian and not orthodox. His views on these points were not part of his new evangelical experience but arose, as Howell Harris declared to him, "from the prejudices of your education, your books, your companions, and the remains of your carnal reason.”
The same Howell Harris also once wrote to Wesley: "You grieve God's people by your opposition to electing love; and many poor souls believe your doctrine simply because you hold it."  All too often we are overawed by the views that influential men hold, more than the view that the Bible holds. It is always easier to follow than to study the Bible for yourself.
Choosing the opinions of men rather than holding on to the clear directives of God ‘s Word is what kills churches, because this grieves the Spirit. Today, we face the same challenges as we face the perpetual issue of the man- centered versus the God centered gospel.
Please note, that SOLA 5 is deliberately called “an Association of God-centered Churches”. SOLA 5 strenuously seeks to be intentionally God centered because we know that so many churches in our day are practically following the likes of Pelagius, Arminius and John Wesley, whose systems quickly lead us away from the true gospel. The same is incidentally also true for those who are merely “Reformed” in name. Many so called Reformed churches are in fact ‘Arminian’ in practice , since they would practically build their doctrine of conversion upon the ability of man, rather than upon the biblical doctrine of the Sovereignty of God.
This age old controversy between the man-centered attempts to deal with the Bible, forcing interpretations into the Bible , and letting the Bible speak for itself, in the plainest sense of the word is really the reason why SOLA 5 has been called into existence. The truth is that the world ( that is us) is naturally drawn to the Pelagian – Arminian – Wesleyan view of things. We seem to intuitively believe that we have the ability and the power to redeem themselves. We are all by nature Arminians and Pelagians. This is what R.C. Sproul referred to when he wrote an article, entitled “The Pelagian Captivity of the Church”.
The Doctrines of Grace re- affirmed in our day
TOTAL DEPRAVITY: (Read Ephesians 2: 1- 9).
We need to preach that total depravity is not just random badness or ignorance, but that it is in fact total blindness and deadness. Blind men cannot see, and dead men cannot respond to the gospel, unless someone opens their eyes and unless someone first makes them alive to see and hear the truth. We believe that to this end , God has called the church and her messengers to preach the Word in season and out of season (2 Tim. 4:2), trusting that the Holy Spirit will give real life to our hearers (John 3:1-8). We say this against the background that many think and believe that there is sufficient ability and goodness in men to see these things and so to make that essential step to save themselves.
UNCONDITIONAL ELECTION: (Read Ephesians 1: 3-6; Romans 8:28-30 ; Romans 9). We need to preach with conviction that our salvation is not secured by the power or the will of man (John 1:12,13) , nor by personal merit , nor by personal choices which we choose to make in respect to our salvation. We affirm that the Bible teaches unambiguously that God, in eternity has predestined His people for salvation, giving them the grace of faith and repentance to believe in time. We affirm and preach that those whom God has sovereignly chosen, He also brings to true repentance by the power of the Holy Spirit. Thus, God's choice of the sinner, not the sinner's choice of Christ, is the ultimate cause of salvation. We say this , because the prevalent mode of evangelism affirms the Arminian view. This view has produced a huge nominal Christianity , who have in fact become twice hardened!
LIMITED ATONEMENT: ( Read John 10:1-21 ; John 17: 2,9, 12)
We need to preach that Jesus died for His sheep alone. What does this mean in terms of our gospel preaching? Well, we preach the Gospel freely to all. We make God’s gracious offer of reconciliation through Christ universally known. But the Lord Jesus teaches us explicitly that only His sheep will hear His voice (John 10). And we must preach that Christ’s death does not just potentially secure people’s salvation (as Arminius taught), but that Christ effectually saves His people. Spurgeon used this doctrine effectively in his evangelism, provoking his listeners to ask whether they were in fact of the elect . This caused that many under Spurgeon’s ministry to examine themselves and to call out for God’s saving mercy. Jesus promises that all who come to Him burdened with their sin and in need of forgiveness, He will not drive away.(Matt. 11:28-30). We must preach the full and free offer of the gospel to all , and with tears and real pleading but unlike many modern preachers we must not use underhanded ways to get people to make commitments that are not rooted in the saving power of Christ .
IRRESISTIBLE GRACE : (Read John 1 :12-13 ; John 3:1-8 ; 3:16 ; 6:44.)
We need to preach boldly that the general gospel call , which is made to all without distinction, can be, and often is, rejected. The particular call however is always heard by the elect, and always at the right time, always resulting in a true conversion.Conversion is evidenced by the grace seen in the life of the converted person. Grace is simply irresistible. There should be no second guessing as to who is converted ! Jesus has saved us that our joy may be complete (1 John 1:4). We shall be known by our fruit. We say this , for there are many people in this world that lack assurance. It is imperative that we must provide gospel clarity for people. Nobody is half - saved!
PERSEVERANCE OF THE SAINTS : (Read John 3:16 ; 6: 35-40 and John 17).
We need to make it clear that Christ’s sheep are kept secure because the Great Shepherd has paid for the price of their sin. Furthermore He continues to pray for them (Rom. 8:34; Jn. 17:9), and He keeps them (Jn. 17:11). They are kept in faith by the power of Almighty God, and thus persevere to the end through all affliction and suffering. We need to preach this in an age where many have taught that it is possible to lose your salvation. This makes the power and the death of Christ a mockery and it must be denounced as a heresy. arnings must however be issued that spurious or temporary believers (Hebr. 6:1-6) who have been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and who have shared in the Holy Spirit and the powers of the age that is to come, if they fall away - that it is impossible to restore them to repentance , since they hold Christ in contempt. (i.e. they went out from us but they did not continue with us 1 Jn. 2:19)
The Doctrines of Grace are thus an explanation of the gospel. SOLA 5 exists to make the clarity of the gospel known.
The doctrines of grace to that end are essential affirmations of the biblical doctrine of salvation. Each one of these aspects has been assaulted, and each one must be defended, if we hope to stay a biblical church.
We thank God that a rediscovery of the doctrines of grace worldwide has been a wonderful antidote to the current sorry state of evangelicalism. But we need greater boldness, and more encouragement to stand where our fathers have stood , and to seek many more platforms to preach these truths.
This is where SOLA 5 stands. This is what we have covenanted ourselves to, and here we wish to stand with all like -minded believers in Southern Africa and in the world.
Unto Him be glory in the church, and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen ! (Eph. 3:21)
 Apparently uttered by Socrates at his trial for impiety and corrupting the youth, for which he was subsequently sentenced to die, as described in Plato's Apology. See also 2 Corinthians 13:5
 T.S. Elliot : ‘ Choruses from the Rock’ : COLLECTED POEMS 1909- 1935 
 E.g. Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:1-11
 In two years’ time, on the 31st October 2017 we shall be remembering the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation
 His real name was Jakob Hermanzoon. He was a professor at the University of Leiden . He wrote many books and treatises on theology and his views became the basis of Arminiansim and the Dutch Remonstrant movement.
 In French he was called Jehan Cauvin
 The oldest of the doctrinal standards of the Reformed Churches is the Belgic Confession written in 1561, following the seventeenth-century Latin designation “Confessio Belgica.” “Belgica” referred to the whole of the Netherlands, both north and south, which today is divided into the Netherlands and Belgium. The confession’s chief author was Guido de Brès, a preacher of the Reformed churches of the Netherlands, who died as a martyr in 1567.
 Taken from R.C. Sproul’s article : The Pelagian Captivity of the Church
 Theopedia : TULIP http://www.theopedia.com/tulip
 This debate was not held between Calvin and Arminius, but between their followers. They were not contemporaries, for Calvin ( 1509 -1564) was long dead when Arminius ( 1560-1609) had become a respected scholar at the University of Leiden , Holland.
 Although Arminius was not nearly as extreme as Pelagius in his pronunciations against the Sovereignty of God. Arminius has sometimes been called a ‘ semi-Pelagian’.
 You can find this on the Internet