Why I am a Calvinist

Tulip-8

It’s been suggested to me that I back down or refrain from preaching or teaching the doctrines of Grace i.e. Calvinism. I’d like to explain why these doctrines of total depravity, unconditional election/ predestination, limited atonement, effectual calling, and the perseverance of the saints are so treasured by me that I cannot back away from them even if it costs me my current job or a future job in an SBC church.

 

First, they are precious doctrines because they are biblical. That should be all the grounding that any believer needs. God has saw fit to reveal in his Word these teachings for us to study and to treasure. His word is the standard for all of our beliefs and practices. Jesus said, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

 

Second, these doctrines exalt God and humble men. Salvation is 100% God’s working. We contribute absolutely nothing to our salvation except the sin that makes it necessary. God will share his glory with no one. It is humbling to know that if not for the sovereign grace of God, I would take myself straight to hell. Yet it causes me to shout in praise of God that he took a dead sinner like myself and made me alive. He has lavished his grace upon one who hated him and could not and would not choose him of his own will.

 

Thirdly, these doctrines are exquisite because they reveal the love that God has for his elect. That in eternity past, God the Father chose a people for himself. He chose to reveal his love to his people by sending God the Son to the cross and dying to save them. He died not just to make salvation possible in generalities but to actually save his specific sheep.  And because God is the one who saves then those who are saved can never be lost. Those he predestines he calls, justifies and will glorify. What great comfort and assurance is found in Christ.

 

Fourthly, these doctrines fuel our evangelism and zeal good works. Because God prepared our salvation beforehand, he also prepared our good works as well. He has chosen to use saved and sanctified sinners to take the glory of the gospel into the world to reach his children. Whether I preach in the pulpit or in the street, I can be confident that my job is just to be faithful to his word and that He is the one who is responsible for the results. I can be confident that God has chosen that the power of the gospel can overwhelm the enslaved and dead will of a sinner and cause them to be born again so that they will now freely chose to obey him. I can pray with confidence for God to save my friends and family, knowing that God actually has the power to save them if he so chooses.

 

Fifthly, and related to the last, because I trust in the sovereignty of God, I do not have to resort to merely pragmatic and worse yet emotionally manipulative means in order to try and get a decision while sharing the gospel. I can faithfully preach the commands of God without being embarrassed by things that our culture finds antiquated. I don’t have to rely on half-truths or the nuancing of things to death so as not to offend. I can trust that God is sovereign and that he has determined to use the proclamation of his word to either save his sheep or to drive away the goats. Consequently, I am free to be faithful to share the gospel with my neighbor without fear that if I mess something up or if I am not the greatest communicator that my neighbor won’t be saved because something I said. Salvation is of the Lord and not of the will of man.

 

There are plenty of other reasons I can think of for why these doctrines are so amazing and precious. Hitting home for me is that God has used the preaching of these beliefs to bring me to repentance and faith in him. And because of that there is no way that I can ever refrain from believing, teaching, preaching, and celebrating the doctrines of Grace.

 

 

Additional Sources:
A Defense of Calvinism by Charles Spurgeon

John Calvin’s Institutes of Christian Religion

Robert Dabney Defends the Five Points of Calvinism

Arminian Errors

 

The Prayer of the Arminian

The Prayer of the Arminian by Charles Spurgeon – The Prince of Preachers

.Any one who believes that man’s will is entirely free, and that he can be saved by it, does not believe the fall…

But I tell you what will be the best proof of that; it is the great fact that you never did meet a Christian in your life who ever said he came to Christ without Christ coming to him. You have heard a great many Arminian sermons, I dare say; but you never heard an Arminian prayer – for the saints in prayer appear as one in word, and deed and mind. An Arminian on his knees would pray desperately like a Calvinist. He cannot pray about free-will: there is no room for it. Fancy him praying,

“Lord, I thank thee I am not like those poor presumptuous Calvinists Lord, I was born with a glorious free-will; I was born with power by which I can turn to thee of myself; I have improved my grace. If everybody had done the same with their grace that I have, they might all have been saved. Lord, I know thou dost not make us willing if we are not willing ourselves. Thou givest grace to everybody; some do not improve it, but I do. There are many that will go to hell as much bought with the blood of Christ as I was; they had as much of the Holy Ghost given to them; they had as good a chance, and were as much blessed as I am. It was not thy grace that made us to differ; I know it did a great deal, still I turned the point; I made use of what was given me, and others did not-that is the difference between me and them.”

That is a prayer for the devil, for nobody else would offer such a prayer as that. Ah! when they are preaching and talking very slowly, there may be wrong doctrine; but when they come to pray, the true thing slips out; they cannot help it. If a man talks very slowly, he may speak in a fine manner; but when he comes to talk fast, the old brogue of his country, where he was born, slips out. I ask you again, did you ever meet a Christian man who said, “I came to Christ without the power of the Spirit?” If you ever did meet such a man, you need have no hesitation in saying, “My dear sir, I quite believe it-and I believe you went away again without the power of the Spirit, and that you know nothing about the matter, and are in the gall of bitterness and the bond of iniquity.” Do I hear one Christian man saying, “I sought Jesus before he sought me; I went to the Spirit, and the Spirit did not come to me”? No, beloved; we are obliged, each one of us, to put our hands to our hearts and say-

“Grace taught my soul to pray,
And made my eyes to o’erflow;
‘Twas grace that kept me to this day,
And will not let me go.”

Warning: One Way Ahead

Hebrews 6

Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3And this we will do if God permits. 4For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.

Hebrews 6 has always been a tough passage for me to get my head around. I have always kind of ignored it or hurried past it in my reading. After doing some research, I found that I am not alone in my difficulties with the passage. The father of the reformation, Martin Luther took a rather low view on Hebrews. Many other theologians have done all kinds of theological gymnastics with this passage to either affirm that one can lose their salvation or that one can not. After meditating on this passage and praying, I think that God has given me a bit more clarity then I had before.

First of all I noticed that the book of Hebrews is written to the Jewish-Christian community. It’s intent was to provide to the Jews a deeper understanding of their own faith and how Christianity is the necessary ends to that faith. For the first 6 chapters, the writer of Hebrews has been showing to the Jews that Jesus is better than angels, the prophets, Moses, the priests, and the law. Jesus is the completion of all of God’s work. It is in Jesus alone that we can find salvation. Jesus is our high priest who washes away our sin with His blood.

Chapter six then begins with a call to move on from the basic teachings. The writer of Hebrews is encouraging the reader to move deeper in understanding. But before we can move into a deeper understanding we are given a very strong warning. That warning is to not forsake or leave the truth of the gospel, which is salvation through faith alone not of works. A Jew who has heard the gospel and experienced the community of believers but then decides that they must return to the sacrificial system of the old testament can not be saved because there is no other way to salvation other than Jesus. Someone who hears the good news and yet looks for salvation in some other way will not find it. It is impossible for anyone to be saved apart from Jesus. The Jews who were going back to the sacrificial system could not be saved by that system because that system can not save. It is as if those people are saying that Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross was not good enough. By going back to the sacrificial system of the old testament, they are putting Jesus to shame.

This passage is a warning to the Jews who are reading this book before moving ahead. It is like a giant sign post saying, “Warning: Don’t turn back.” So the question is, can someone who once had salvation lose it? I don’t think that the point of this passage is to even ask that question. Instead it is a warning that there is no way to salvation apart from Jesus. There is no way for someone to be saved from their sins other than Jesus. So don’t turn back on that teaching and expect something else to save because it is impossible for you to be saved by anything other than Jesus. The warning is this, Jesus is the only way. Another way to put it is this way, don’t hear the gospel and then think you can be saved any other way because you cannot. Jesus is the only way.

Purpose of Parables

     I have been reading through Mark when I came upon a verse in Mark 4 that gave me pause. In the NIV, verse 33 is translated “With many similar parables Jesus spoke the word to them, as much as they could understand.” This translation seems problematic to me because just a few verses earlier Jesus had told his disciples that he was speaking in parables to the crowds so that they would not understand. In Mark 4:11-12 He told them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables so that, “they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!””

I found it strange that in one place Jesus would tell his disciples the purpose of parables was one thing and then later it seemed to change. The NASB and the ESV have a better translation of verse 33 that makes more sense in context. Instead of saying that Jesus spoke as many parables as they could understand, these versions say that Jesus spoke as many parables as they could hear. To me this passage reflects the way that the gospel works on people. The gospel message has two purposes. The most clear purpose is that those whom God has chosen would hear it and have their hearts pierced, their souls convicted, and then they would repent of their sin and turn to Him. The second purpose is that there will be those who hear the gospel message and it will only work to further their rebellion. It will only work to harden their heart. In this way the gospel will stand as an accusation against that person in judgment. The gospel will come across as parables,stories, and fairy tales.  There will come a time when they can bear to hear it no longer. The message of the gospel is foolish to those who are perishing but I am grateful that to those being saved it is the power of God.