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Calvinism & Arminianism,
Neither Are In The Truth
Calvinism is named after the French man John Calvin (1509-1564),1 and Arminianism is named after the Dutch man James (or Jacob) Arminius (1560-1609). There may be varying forms of Calvinism and Arminianism, and the differences between these two camps can become quite involved, depending on the advocates, but there are basically five points in which these systems of thought do not agree. Following the common Calvinistic acrostic "TULIP," the first point of contention is:
I. Total Depravity (or Free Will)
. . . that man's natural state is a state of total depravity and therefore, there [is] a total inability on the part of man to gain, or contribute to, his own salvation. (The Five Points Of Calvinism, by W. J. Seaton, second printing, 1972, The Banner Of Truth Trust)
The classic Arminian position on this would concur with this statement (e.g. The Works of James Arminius, Vol. II, p. 192, VII), but would add that God, through his prevenient grace, has also given man the free will to choose to turn to God. Dr. Chris Jakway argues this from an Arminian perspective on the tape, Scriptural Response To Calvinism.
In book two, three five [of the Institutes of the Christian Religion], Calvin says, "Yet, so depraved in his nature that he can be moved or impelled only to evil." So Calvin says we can only do evil. Again, making it very clear, God has not enabled us with the free will to accept or reject him.
Contemporary Calvinists say the same thing often times. Dewayne Spencer in a book called TULIP makes this statement. "Point one, the Arminian says that man's will is free to choose either the word of God or the word of Satan. The Calvinist's response: that unregenerate man is in absolute bondage to Satan" (as if we don't believe that, as if we don't believe sinful by nature) "and wholly incapable of exercising free will to trust in Christ."
So the first thing we need to see from Scripture is that God has indeed enabled us, through this prevenient grace, to have free will. (side 1, from Evangelical Outreach, Box 265, Washington, PA 15301; www.evangelicaloutreach.org)
The Calvinist's idea of total depravity excludes the idea of God giving men the free will to accept or reject Him. The Arminian's idea of total depravity includes this free will choice and ability, understanding that it exists only by the grace of God. Now, what does the Lord say?
The Lord says explicitly in regards to salvation that "it is not of him who wills" (Romans 9:16) nor "of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God" (John 1:13).
The Word teaches that man, in his lost state, seeks only rebellion (Proverbs 17:11) and does not seek God (Romans 3:11). That he is dead in his trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1-3), does evil continually (Genesis 6:5, "only"; Psalm 53:1-3; Romans 3:10-18), and is unable to do good on his own, especially any good that would lead to his salvation (Psalm 58:3; Jeremiah 13:23; Isaiah 64:5:b; Romans 11:36). But, when someone is saved, this lost state is broken, and they have the freedom to live in righteousness, by the power of God (Romans 6:2, 7, 14, 17-18, 20, 22; Ephesians 2:8-10).
Yet, it should also be noted for clarity, that a lost man could, if and when God so determined (Psalm 16:2; Romans 11:36), perform that which is truly good, yet the man may never come to salvation. For example, Balaam, who was a false prophet in his lost state (2 Peter 2:15-16; Numbers 25:1-3; 31:16), performed that which is truly good. He spoke, without compromise, even in the face of opposition, the unadulterated word of God (Numbers 23:5-13). "God would not listen to Balaam, but the Lord your God turned the curse into a blessing" (Deuteronomy 23:5), and caused Balaam to do truly good (Romans 11:36).
Jehu is another example of a lost man doing good. Read 2 Kings 9:1-10:28 and you will see Jehu's "zeal for the Lord" (2 Kings 9:25-26; 36-37; 10:9-10; 10:16). At the end of this zeal, 2 Kings records,
However Jehu did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who had made Israel sin, that is, from the golden calves that were at Bethel and Dan. And the Lord said to Jehu, "Because you have done well in doing what is right in My sight, and have done to the house of Ahab all that was in My heart, your sons shall sit on the throne of Israel to the fourth generation." But Jehu took no heed to walk in the law of the Lord God of Israel with all his heart; for he did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam, who had made Israel sin. (2 Kings 10:29-31)
The Lord says Jehu did "well in doing what is right in My sight." This is not the same perspective as, "all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags" (Isaiah 64:6). Jehu did "all that was in [God's] heart" and what was right, so much so, that the Lord blesses him saying, "your sons shall sit on the throne of Israel to the fourth generation." Moreover, we know Jehu did all this in yet a lost state, because verse 29 above says, "Jehu did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam . . . from the golden calves that were at Bethel and Dan." Jehu did good, truly good, but was still lost. This righteousness which he performed gave him nothing in regards to salvation.
Now, when it comes to free will, Scripture does teach that there is such a thing as free will (e.g. Exodus 35:29: 36:3; Leviticus 22:18, 21, 23; 23:38; Psalm 119:108). But, free will is under the same umbrella as the rest of the entire creation, that is, the umbrella of Romans 11:36.
For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.
Nothing happens apart from God causing it to happen (Isaiah 45:7; Lamentations 3:37-38; Amos 3:6). In fact, this is where Arminians (and some Calvinists)1 typically have trouble. They stumble over the reality of God being the cause of sin. Randolph Foster (an Arminian, 1820-1903) in objection to "God decreed whatsoever comes to pass" argues,
And, first, I object: it renders the conclusion inevitable that God is the author of sin. I employ the term author in the sense of originator or cause. (Objections to Calvinism as it is, p. 23, copyright 1998, Schmul Publishing Co., Salem, Ohio)
Foster objects to God being the cause of sin. If all things are "of Him through Him and to Him" (Romans 11:36), then indeed, God, who is nonetheless holy and righteous in all His ways (Psalm 99:3, 5, 9; 145:17), is the cause of all things, even sin. In fact, God Himself declares,
I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things. (Isaiah 45:7, KJV)1
Who is he that saith, and it cometh to pass, when the Lord commandeth it not? Out of the mouth of the most High proceedeth not evil and good? (Lamentations 3:37-38, KJV)
Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? Shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it? (Amos 3:6, KJV)
Some may argue against the KJV translation of these verses, but the translation is legitimate. The Hebrew words translated "evil," râ`, râ`ot, and râ`âh, can all be translated this way, as the KJV illustrates (note also the same Hebrew root in Exodus 32:12-14; Psalm 78:49; Jeremiah 18:8-11; 24:3, 8; 36:3; Ezekiel 6:10; and Micah 1:12 in the KJV). But, not to "strive about words" (2 Timothy 2:14), what does Isaiah ask?
O Lord, why have You made us stray from Your ways, and hardened our heart from Your fear? (Isaiah 63:17; see also 2 Samuel 12:11-12; Psalm 105:25)
Obviously, Isaiah, the prophet of God, the holy man of God who was moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21), believed that God caused the Israelites to sin ("You made us stray from Your ways"). Isaiah confirms this earlier in his book in Isaiah 30:28.
Behold, the name of the Lord comes from afar, burning with His anger, and His burden is heavy; His lips are full of indignation, and His tongue like a devouring fire. His breath is like an overflowing stream, which reaches up to the neck, to sift the nations with the sieve of futility; and there shall be a bridle in the jaws of the people, causing them to err. (Isaiah 30:27-28)
Who will make sure that bridle will be there to cause the people to sin? In the context, it is the Lord.
Likewise, Isaiah 13:16 says,
Their children also will be dashed to pieces before their eyes; their houses will be plundered and their wives ravished.
Who, in the context, is causing these children to be dashed to pieces and these women to be raped (ravished)? It is the Lord, as it is written,
I will punish the world for its evil. (Isaiah 13:11)
Part of God's punishment toward Israel was to cause them to do something horrifically evil - to eat their own children!
And I will cause them to eat the flesh of their sons and the flesh of their daughters, and everyone shall eat the flesh of his friend in the siege . . . ". (Jeremiah 19:9; see also Lamentations 2:20; Ezekiel 5:9-10)
Note David's prayer in Psalm 141.
Do not incline my heart to any evil thing, to practice wicked works with men who work iniquity; and do not let me eat of their delicacies. (Psalm 141:4)
David's words are not idle. David knew the Lord could incline his heart to do evil and "to practice wicked works." In fact, even though David prayed this, the Lord nevertheless did incline his heart to do evil.
Again the anger of the Lord was aroused against Israel, and He moved David against them to say, "Go, number Israel and Judah." (2 Samuel 24:1)
2 Samuel 24:10-17 records that David sinned by giving this order. David indeed sinned. Who caused David to sin? The Lord "moved David."2
Similarly, Peter writes,
Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, "The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone." They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed. (1 Peter 2:7-8)
They were appointed to sin (i.e. disobedience to the word). Appointed by whom? They were appointed by God (Romans 11:36). In fact, this is the case for all mankind before salvation. God "has committed them all to disobedience" (Romans 11:32), and "the Scripture has confined all under sin" (Galatians 3:22).
The Word says, "the wicked are estranged from the womb" (Psalm 58:3). Who has created them that way? Is it not the Lord (Colossians 1:16)? Yes, it is. Even though Scripture says, "that God made man upright" (Ecclesiastes 7:29), it also says,
The Lord has made all for Himself, yes, even the wicked for the day of doom. (Proverbs 16:4; see also e.g. Revelation 17:16-17)
Thus, the God who cannot Himself lie (Titus 1:2), but sends lies (e.g. 2 Chronicles 18:18-22; 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12), is the cause of all, even lies. The God who does not Himself tempt (James 1:13), but does cause people to be tempted, both via the Devil (e.g. Matthew 4:1; 6:13) and their own evil hearts (James 1:14) that He gave them (Jeremiah 17:9; Psalm 33:15), is the cause of all, even temptation and sin.
So, when it comes to free will, there is no free will apart from God causing the decision to either accept or reject Him. As it is written,
O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps. (Jeremiah 10:23; see also Jeremiah 17:9/Proverbs 16:4)
A man's steps are of the Lord; how then can a man understand his own way? (Proverbs 20:24; see also Proverbs 16:9; Isaiah 26:12)
To Belshazzar Daniel said, ". . . the God who holds your breath in His hand and owns all your ways, you have not glorified" (Daniel 5:23).
All things are of Him through Him and to Him (Romans 11:36). Therefore, this being understood, then there is free will under this canopy of God's control. His ways are past finding out (Romans 11:33), and this is one of His ways that is manifestly past finding out!
God deals with man as if he did have free will, and he does (e.g. Numbers 15:3; 29:39; Deuteronomy 12:6, 17; 16:10; 2 Chronicles 31:14; Ezra 1:4; 3:5; 7:16; 8:28), that is, with the above truth still standing. God rightly holds man responsible for his actions.
Do not be deceived. God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. (Galatians 6:7-8)
The judgment of God will be according to each one's work - "those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation" (John 5:29). People do indeed choose good (e.g. Joshua 24:22; Psalm 119:30; Isaiah 7:15-16; Luke 10:42) and evil (e.g. Judges 5:8; 10:14; Proverbs 1:29; Isaiah 56:4; 66:3), and the Lord will judge them accordingly (Romans 2:6-16).
For example, even though Baasha fulfilled God's word by killing Nadab and all the house of Jeroboam (1 Kings 15:25-29), the Lord nonetheless condemned Baasha for doing so (1 Kings 16:7).
Ecclesiastes 9:11 says,
The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to men of understanding, nor favor to men of skill; but time and chance happen to them all.
Given different circumstances, there are people who would have chosen good rather than evil, and would have gone to heaven, rather than hell, because the influences in their lives would have encouraged them toward good rather than evil (e.g. 1 Corinthians 15:33). In other words, given a different time, or a different chance (set of circumstances), they would have chosen differently, and the result of this choosing would have eternal consequences.
For example, the Lord told Jeremiah concerning the false prophets of his day,
I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran. I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied. But if they had stood in My counsel, and had caused My people to hear My words, then they would have turned them from their evil way and from the evil of their doings. (Jeremiah 23:21-22)
The Lord tells Jeremiah a profound truth. If the prophets had spoken the truth, rather than lies, the people would have repented and not perished! But, instead, the prophets tried to make the people forget His name (Jeremiah 23:27), and it worked; and the people perished (Jeremiah 27:9-10).
For another example, read Luke 10:13.
Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes.
The people of Tyre and Sidon would have repented, had they had the same circumstances (mighty works) Chorazin and Bethsaida had. But, the Lord didn't give them such a privilege, and they perished.
Knowing that certain circumstances can cause people to either accept or reject God, Jesus spoke in parables to ensure people would not accept Him. Jesus said to His disciples,
To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but to those who are outside, all things come in parables, so that "Seeing they may see and not perceive, and hearing they may hear and not understand; lest they should turn, and their sins be forgiven them." (Mark 4:11-12)
Jesus lets his disciples know why he speaks to the people in parables, and the reason he gives is astounding! It is to prevent people from understanding His message and being saved ("lest they should turn, and their sins be forgiven them").
In another place we read that God made it impossible for people to accept Him. John 12:37-40 displays no free will, but rather, the exact opposite, a locked will incapable of faith, i.e. accepting God.
But although He had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in Him, that the word of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spoke: "Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?" Therefore they could not believe, because Isaiah said again: "He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, lest they should see with their eyes, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them."
The Lord made it so that these people could not believe. In other words, it was impossible for them to believe. And how did He do this? He blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts. And Why? To make sure they did not understand, repent ("turn"), and receive forgiveness ("heal them"). To make sure they did not get saved!
This way of God is certainly unsearchable (Romans 11:33). He "desires all men to be saved" (1 Timothy 2:4), and "has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all" (Romans 11:32), but He acts in ways that make sure people do not get saved! Deuteronomy beautifully illustrates this. In Deuteronomy 5:29 the Lord says,
Oh, that they had such a heart in them that they would fear Me and always keep all My commandments, that it might be well with them and with their children forever! (see also Deuteronomy 32:29)
The Lord clearly desires that they would have "a heart in them that they would fear" Him. Yet, Moses later points out that God did not give them "such a heart" so they could.
Yet the Lord has not given you a heart to perceive and eyes to see and ears to hear, to this very day. (Deuteronomy 29:4)
So, to that very day, God had not given them the very thing they needed in order for them to do what He longed for.
Similarly, God commands all men everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30), and desires that they do (1 Timothy 2:4), yet they cannot repent unless God grants them repentance (2 Timothy 2:26; Romans 11:36); and this He only grants to a few (Matthew 7:13-14; 20:16; 22:14; Romans 9:27-29; 11:5).
So, in conclusion, it is evident, that Scripture teaches total depravity, free will, and no free will. Arminians are in error when they reject the absolute control that God has over His creation; that is, that all things are of Him through Him and to Him (Romans 11:36). Nothing happens but by God causing it to happen (e.g. Psalm 104; Proverbs 16:33), and this includes sin (e.g. Romans 1:28-31). Therefore, when Arminians maintain that God is not the cause of sin, and that man has the capability of either accepting or rejecting God apart from God causing the acceptance or rejection (Jeremiah 10:23; Romans 11:36), then they describe a god not of the Bible and a gospel not of holy writ.
II. Unconditional Election (or Conditional Election)
John Calvin wrote,
Predestination we call the eternal decree of God, by which he has determined in himself, what he would have to become of every individual of mankind. For they are not all created with a similar destiny; but eternal life is foreordained for some, and eternal damnation for others. Every man, therefore, being created for one or the other of these ends, we say, he is predestinated either to life or to death. (Institutes of the Christian Religion, book III, 21.5, p.176)
Arminians have a serious problem with this. The Arminian Randolph Foster wrote,
All, therefore, who hold to the unconditional election of a part of mankind to eternal life must, to be consistent with themselves, take into their creed the "horrible decree of reprobation." They must believe that in the ages of eternity, God determined to create men and angels for the express purpose to damn them eternally! - that he determined to introduce sin and harden them in it that they might be fit subjects of his wrath! - that for doing as they are impelled to do by the irresistible decree of Jehovah, they must lie down forever under the scalding vials of his vengeance in the pit of hell!
To state this doctrine in its true character is enough to chill one's blood; and we are drawn by all that is rational within us to turn away from such a God with horror as from the presence of an almighty Tyrant. (Objections to Calvinism as it is, p. 62)
Indeed, Randolph did turn away from such a God. The problem is, he turned away from the true God.
God has certainly chosen, before time began (2 Timothy 1:9), many to eternal torment and few to eternal life (Matthew 7:13-14; Romans 9:6-28). But, the real problem between Calvinists and Arminians lies within how God made this choice. Calvinists contend that God's choice was not based upon whether a person would believe or not. Arminians contend it was.
In the context of predestination Calvin wrote,
. . . God is excited to mercy by no other motive than his own will to be merciful. The observation of Augustine therefore remains true, "that the grace of God does not find men fit to be elected, but makes them so." (Institutes of the Christian Religion, book III, 22.8, p. 193)
Whom God passes by, therefore, he reprobates, and from no other cause than his determination to exclude them from the inheritance which he predestines for his children. (ibid., 23.1, p. 199)
In the context of rejecting a predestination that decrees "certain individuals to everlasting life, and others to eternal destruction, without any regard whatever to righteousness or sin, obedience or disobedience" (Vol. I, p. 614), James Arminius wrote concerning his version of predestination:
To these succeeds the Fourth decree, by which God decreed to save and damn certain particular persons. This decree has its foundation in the foreknowledge of God, by which he knew from all eternity those individuals who would, through his preventing grace, believe, and, through his subsequent grace would persevere, - according to the before-described administration of those means which are suitable and proper for conversion and faith; and, by which foreknowledge, he likewise knew those who would not believe and persevere. (The Works of James Arminius, Vol. I, p. 653-654, Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI, italics not added)
For even clearer words, the Arminian Dale Yocum writes in Creeds In Contrast,
Election unto salvation occurs as the sinner believes in Jesus Christ as his Savior. Calvin taught unconditional election from eternity, as has already been shown (Chapter 4). Individual election is from eternity in the sense that God foresees who shall believe and comply with the terms of salvation; it is actualized at the moment of saving faith in Jesus Christ. (Creeds In Contrast, A Study in Calvinism and Arminianism, p. 99, Schmul Publishing)
The Arminian idea of foreknowledge displays God as knowing who would believe and who would not believe, and based upon this knowledge, God therefore chose those who would believe to eternal life, and those who would not believe unto eternal destruction. The problem with this is twofold.
One, this is not God choosing man, but rather man choosing God. Jesus said to His disciples,
You did not choose Me, but I chose you . . . . (John 15:16)
They did not choose Christ, but rather Christ chose them. Romans 9:16 likewise declares,
It is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. (see also John 1:12-13)
Secondly, foreknowledge is nowhere described or pictured in this manner in Scripture (Proverbs 30:5-6). On the contrary, Romans 9:6-28 speaks directly against this idea of foreknowledge. But first, note the Lord's use of "foreknowledge."
Romans 8:29 says,
For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. [For every use of the Greek noun prognôsis, foreknowledge, in the NT see Acts 2:23 and 1 Peter 1:2. For every use of the Greek verb prognôskô, foreknow, in the NT see Acts 26:5; Romans 8:29; 11:2; 1 Peter 1:20; and 2 Peter 3:17.]
Similarly, 1 Peter 1:2 says, "elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father."
Indeed, election is "according to the foreknowledge of God," but does Scripture ever describe this foreknowledge as something that has to do with what a person "would" do, or rather, does it have to do with something God has predetermined to be? Jeremiah reveals the latter.
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations. (Jeremiah 1:5)
God knew Jeremiah before he was in the womb. This is a way of saying Jeremiah was destined to be saved before he was born. Because, those not known by God are condemned (see Matthew 7:23; 25:12; Luke 13:25 & 27). Those known by God are saved (e.g. Genesis 18:19; 1 Corinthians 8:3; 2 Corinthians 5:11; Galatians 4:9). Thus, God knowing, foreknowing (knowing them beforehand), equals salvation. God not knowing someone equals condemnation.
It is true that God knew what Jeremiah would do. The Lord knows all things (John 2:24; 21:17; Acts 15:18; 1 John 3:20). But, all that He knows, He has decreed to be (Isaiah 46:10; Romans 11:36).
So, the significance of God knowing Jeremiah before he was in the womb has to do with the fact that God set Jeremiah apart ("sanctified") and appointed ("ordained") him to be a prophet before he was ever born. It is not that God knew what Jeremiah would do, whether he would believe, or whether he would obey God, and therefore God chose him to be what He knew he would be. No, God knew Jeremiah and sanctified Jeremiah and ordained Jeremiah to be a prophet. In other words, Jeremiah's life was pre-ordained and sanctified unto God before Jeremiah even existed. He was saved before he was born (as in 2 Timothy 1:9). As David wrote of his life,
Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them. (Psalm 139:16)
This predestination on the life of men is illustrated in Romans 9.
For this is the word of promise: "At this time I will come and Sarah shall have a son." 10 And not only this, but when Rebecca also had conceived by one man, even by our father Isaac 11 (for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls), 12 it was said to her, "The older shall serve the younger." 13 As it is written, "Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated."
Notice verse 11 says, "the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil." God's choice regarding Jacob and Esau was not based on anything they might do. It was not even based on whether they would believe or not, because believing is "good" (Lamentations 3:26), and verse 11 says before they had "done any good." This is why the Lord gave the declaration of verse 12 before they were born. It was to illustrate that God's purpose according to election is not based upon any actions of the recipient, faith included. Truly, all things are of Him and through Him and to Him (Romans 11:36).
Again, this is where Arminians have difficulty. Dale Yocum argues,
How can a God of sincere love and faithful justice arbitrarily cause some to be saved eternally while others are condemned to hell eternally, without regard to anything in those individuals which would distinguish the one from the other? (Creeds In Contrast, p. 63)
The answer is found in Psalm 115:3.
Our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases. (Psalm 115:3)
James Arminius, arguing against reprobation (God's eternal decree to make people vessels of wrath) wrote,
Reprobation is an act of hatred, and from hatred derives its origin. (The Works of James Arminius, Vol. I, p. 627)
He was correct in this, but it is no argument to use against reprobation, because God Himself said,
Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated. (Romans 9:13)
This is one of the clearest statements in the Bible, but people stumble over it time and again. God has indeed loved the minority of mankind unto salvation, and has indeed hated the rest of mankind unto eternal hatred, eternal torment (Luke 13:24; 1 Peter 4:17-18; Romans 9:6-23). This does not mean that the Lord has not and does not also love all mankind (Matthew 5:44-45; John 3:16). But, when it comes to His predestination to either mercy or wrath, God loves and hates, according to His own purpose (Romans 9:11).
Earlier we noted Randolph Foster's accusation against God as "an almighty Tyrant." Later in his book Randolph writes,
Do you shudder at this? Is your whole soul filled with just horror at the blasphemous intimation? Who, let me ask, is guilty of the enormous blasphemy? Who is it that thus charges God foolishly, nay, wickedly? Reflect, ye that hold to unconditional election and reprobation! How can you escape? In the sight of heaven and earth, are you not guilty? (Objections to Calvinism as it is, p. 73, italics in original)
Actually, Randolph is the guilty one. Paul answers such accusations in Romans 9.
What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not! For He says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion." So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth." Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens. (Romans 9:14-18)
It all comes down to God's will. "He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens" (Romans 9:18).
Another argument against this is, "It destroys human accountability" (Randolph, ibid., p. 75). Arminius, in arguing against reprobation stated,
From the same position we might also infer, that God is the only sinner. For man, who is impelled by an irresistible force to commit sin, (that is, to perpetrate some deed that has been prohibited,) cannot be said to sin himself (The Works of James Arminius, Vol. I, p. 630, italics in original).
Paul answers this with,
You will say to me then, "Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?" But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? (Romans 9:19-20)
Even though Scripture teaches that God rightly holds men accountable for their actions (Galatians 6:7-8; Psalm 96:13; Matthew 25:31-46; Revelation 20:11-15), Paul gets right to the point with, "Who are you to reply against God?"
Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, "Why have you made me like this?" Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor? (Romans 9:20-21)
The answer to this question is an emphatic, "Yes!"
The earth is the Lord's, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein. (Psalm 24:1)
Woe to him who strives with his Maker! (Isaiah 45:9)
Everything and everybody belongs to the Lord and He can do whatever He so chooses to do with whatever or whomever He so chooses. He can, and has, made vessels of mercy and vessels of wrath, the former to display His immense love and kindness forever (Ephesians 2:7; 1 Peter 2:9), the latter to display His intense hatred for sin and sinners forever (Psalm 92:5-7; Isaiah 66:24). As Paul rhetorically asks,
What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?
Some may stumble at Paul's words because his statement about vessels of wrath and vessels of mercy is put forth as a question. But note, his question is rhetorical. Moreover, if the second part (vessels of mercy) is true, so is the first (vessels of wrath). Furthermore, Paul's words immediately after this question confirm that he speaks rhetorically.
As He says also in Hosea: "I will call them My people, who were not My people, and her beloved, who was not beloved." "And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them, 'You are not My people,' there they shall be called sons of the living God." Isaiah also cries out concerning Israel: "Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, the remnant will be saved. For He will finish the work and cut it short in righteousness, because the Lord will make a short work upon the earth." (Romans 9:22-28)
Salvation is the work of God (Ephesians 2:10), and He has decided to do "a short work upon the earth." If salvation is His work, then so is damnation. As Psalm 92:5-7 says,
O Lord, how great are Your works! Your thoughts are very deep. A senseless man does not know, nor does a fool understand this. When the wicked spring up like grass, and when all the workers of iniquity flourish, it is that they may be destroyed forever.
This has been God's plan from the beginning (Acts 13:48; 2 Timothy 1:9; Revelation 13:8); that the wicked would flourish, and that He would destroy them forever (Revelation 21:8). Senseless people and fools do not understand this (Psalm 92:6). Arminians (i.e. those who reject this truth) are fools.
Actually, it should be no surprise that God controls the eternal destiny of every individual. He controls every other aspect of life, and the human experience knows this, at least in part. Did we choose the time in history in which we would be born and live? Obviously not, yet God obviously did (Acts 17:26). Did we choose to be able to speak, or hear, or see?
Who has made man's mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the Lord? (Exodus 4:11)
Did we choose the color of our hair, the color of our eyes, the form and beauty of our bodies (or lack thereof, e.g. Genesis 29:17), our ability to walk, or run, or do anything that we can do? No, we did not. For "it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves" (Psalm 100:3). Even in regards to the rich or the poor, "The Lord is the maker of them all" (Proverbs 22:2). "A man's heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps" (Proverbs 16:9). Truly, it is all by the hand of God, and so it is no less with man's eternal destiny (Ephesians 1:3-5; Romans 9:6-28), as Job said,
For He performs what is appointed for me, and many such things are with Him. Therefore I am terrified at His presence; when I consider this, I am afraid of Him. (Job 23:14-15)
So, Psalm 65:4 declares,
Blessed is the man You choose, and cause to approach you, that he may dwell in Your courts.
III. Limited Atonement (or Unlimited Atonement)3
Thus far we have seen mainly the error of Arminianism. Now, in this third point, some of Calvinism's folly appears. The issue here lies with the fact that Calvinism teaches that Christ died only for the elect (i.e. limited atonement). Arminians contend Christ died for all mankind, elect and non-elect (i.e. unlimited atonement). The Arminian Dale Yocum sums it up by saying,
There is no area in which the contrast between Calvinism and Arminianism is any more definite than in consideration of the extent of the atonement. Calvinists have insisted that Christ in His death provided atonement only for the elect, as has already been illustrated. Arminius strongly opposed such a view and insisted that the atonement was provided for all men. (Creeds In Contrast, p. 80)
The Scriptures that Calvinists use to support their position are Scriptures that address for whom Christ died and the purpose for His death. For example, note the following verses.
And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins. (Matthew 1:21)
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. (John 10:11)
And one of them, Caiaphas, being high priest that year, said to them, "You know nothing at all, nor do you consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish." Now this he did not say on his own authority; but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for that nation only, but also that He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad. (John 11:49-52)
Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. (Acts 20:28)
. . . who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, . . . . (Galatians 1:4)
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, . . . . (Ephesians 5:25-26)
. . . who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. (Titus 2:14)
And they sang a new song, saying: "You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation," (Revelation 5:9)
These verses indeed reveal that Christ died for the elect, and that He died to save them; but they do not reveal for whom Christ did not die.
Other verses used by Calvinists are verses that say Christ died for many (e.g. Matthew 20:28; 26:28; Mark 10:45; Hebrews 9:28). But, again, this says nothing about for whom Christ did not die, and "many" is a very general term.
Actually, the arguments used to support particularly the Calvinist position can become quite involved, but the bottom line is, for whom did Christ die? Scripture is not unclear on this.
For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time, for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle - I am speaking the truth in Christ and not lying - a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. (1 Timothy 2:3-7)
Calvinists make Paul a liar (1 John 1:10), because they reject his words. Paul says Christ "gave Himself a ransom for all." Calvinists contend that he did not. They argue that this "all" does not mean "all men," but this is the very context in which it is said ("who desires all men to be saved"). Of course, they have to reject this "all men" also and redefine it, so that it doesn't mean what it says and thus deceive the hearts of the simple (Romans 16:17-18).
For an example of a Calvinists argument, John Owen, a puritan of old, writes,
That is not to be asserted and affirmed which the Scripture doth not anywhere go before us in; but the Scripture nowhere saith Christ died for all men, much less for all and every man (between which two there is a wide difference, as shall be declared): therefore, this is not to be asserted. It is true, Christ is said to give his life "a ransom for all," but nowhere for all men. (The Works of John Owen, Vol. 10, p. 245, in "The Death of Death")
The exact wording Owen uses, "all men," is the exact context in which 1 Timothy 2:6 proclaims, "who gave Himself a ransom for all," i.e. "all men" (1 Timothy 2:4). Yet, Owen distorts the Word and continues working deceit against 1 Timothy 2:4 & 6 by saying,
. . . he expressly intimates that by all men he understandeth men of all sorts, ranks, conditions, and orders, by distributing those all into several kinds, expressly mentioning some of them, as "kings and all in authority." (ibid., p. 346)
and in another place,
For our parts, by all men we understand some of all sorts throughout the world, . . . (ibid., p. 381)
The problem with this is, the text does not say "all sorts of men," but rather, "all men." Indeed, 1 Timothy 2:2 focuses on "kings and all who are in authority" after mentioning "all men" in verse one. But 1 Timothy 2:4 and 6 do not have any such statement in them, after them, or any qualifying statement whatsoever. The "all men" means exactly that, "all men."
If some might stumble at Mr. Owen's deceit, 1 John 2:2 should help.
And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.
Here, the propitiation of Christ (the death of Christ) is stated to be not only for us, believers (e.g. 1 John 1:7; 5:13), but also for the whole world, unbelievers (e.g. 1 John 3:1, 13; 4:5; 5:19). 1 John uses this same term "whole world" one other time, and in this instance it is clear it means literally the whole world of the ungodly in contrast to believers, just as it is used in 1 John 2:2.
We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one. (1 John 5:19)
"We know that we are of God" equals believers, "and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one" equals all unbelievers.
The typical argument against 1 John 2:2 is that the "world" is used "in a restricted, limited sense." But, it is only "restricted" when it goes through the "limited" atonement Calvinist mind. For example, Palmer writes,
The answer to this objection is that often the Bible uses the words world or all in a restricted, limited sense. They must always be interpreted in their context and in the light of the rest of Scripture. (the five points of calvinism, by Edwin Palmer, p. 52, copyright 1972, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI)
The Calvinists' problem here lies in that they believe in limited atonement, therefore, "in the light of the rest of Scripture" equals "through the delusion of a limited atonement theology." When stuck on the limited atonement lie, several passages must be restricted and limited even though the context does not dictate such a qualification. Indeed, words should be interpreted in their context, but the context in which the pertinent verses lie do not restrict them to only the elect.
For example, John 1:29 says,
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!"
Nothing in the text indicates a need to understand any limitation on the term world here, unless, of course, you believe in limited atonement. If you believe in limited atonement, then you can't simply take it for what it says. You must find another meaning. But, when you come to this text as a little child (Matthew 18:3), the truth is awesome!
Another example can be found in Hebrews 2:9.
But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.
Christ tasted death for everyone (or for all, Greek - pontos). The immediate context is man (i.e. mankind, Hebrews 2:5-8) and "all things" (Hebrews 2:10). Yes, the elect are in the context also (Hebrews 2:10), but this does not take away the fact that "for everyone" is sandwiched between mankind and all things. Thus, everyone means everyone. Unless darkened by the Calvinist's lie, Hebrews 2:9 should remove all doubt.
In John 4:42 and 1 John 4:14 Scripture proclaims that Christ is the Savior of the world. Nothing in these texts dictates a limitation or restriction upon the term "world." Moreover, when considering "the light of the rest of Scripture," if there was any question as to what the "world" means in these texts, 1 Timothy 4:10 answers it.
For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe.
It should be obvious, that "all men" includes unbelievers, because it says that Christ is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe. Thus, Christ is the Savior of all men, believers and unbeliever as well. Christ is indeed literally the Savior of the world. But, some may say, "How is He the Savior of all? Not all will be saved!" The answer is simple. Just as He is Lord of all (Acts 10:36), so He is Savior of all (John 4:42; 1 John 4:14; 1 Timothy 4:10).
Calvinists David Steele and Curtis Thomas write,
One reason for the use of these expressions was to correct the false notion that salvation was for the Jews alone. Such phrases as "the world," "all men," "all nations," and "every creature" were used by the New Testament writers to emphatically correct this mistake. These expressions are intended to show that Christ died for all men without distinction (i.e. He died for Jews and Gentiles alike) but they are not intended to indicate that Christ died for all men without exception (i.e. He did not die for the purpose of saving each and every lost sinner). (The Five Points Of Calvinism, Defined, Defended, Documented, p. 46, copyright 1963, Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., Philadelphia, PA)
Steele and Thomas limit the scope of these words with a Jew and Gentile concern. The problem is, none of the texts we have seen thus far support this interpretation. In fact, when Scripture was concerned about a Jew and Gentile distinction, He would say so (e.g. Romans 1:16; 2:9-10; 3:29; 9:24; 11:11-13). Moreover, Steele and Thomas say that Christ "did not die for the purpose of saving each and every lost sinner." This is completely the opposite of the words of Jesus. In John 3:17 Christ said,
For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. (See also John 6:51)
In John 12:47 Jesus said,
And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.
Here, "the world" whom Christ came to save is in the context of unbelievers, and clearly the non-elect are at least in part included, because He speaks of those who do not believe His words. That most certainly defines vessels of wrath prepared for destruction (Romans 9:22; Revelation 21:8 "unbelieving"). Yet, Christ says He came to save them.
Someone might argue, "What! God sent His Son to save the world? To save everybody, even vessels of wrath?" Yes, as Romans 11:32 says,
For God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all.
Here, Romans 11:32 is indeed in the context of Jew and Gentile, but this makes the statement no less potent. The reason God committed all, Jew and Gentile (in other words everybody) to disobedience was that He might have mercy on all, Jew and Gentile (in other words everybody). 2 Corinthians 5:19 says,
that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, . . .
The Lord was on a mercy mission when He came (Mark 2:17), and He was reconciling the world to Himself. Of course, many refused, on their part, to be reconciled to God (John 1:10-11), but nonetheless God's call and effort went out (Mark 1:15); and Christ took away the sins of the world (John 1:29; John 19:30).
Probably the hardest tenet for Calvinists to swallow is that Christ could actually pay the price for someone's sin, and yet that person could still end up in hell. The Calvinist Charles Spurgeon illustrates this well.
To think that my Savior died for men who were or are in hell, seems a supposition too horrible for me to entertain. To imagine for a moment that He was the Substitute, for all the sons of men, and that God, having first punished the Substitute, afterwards punished the sinners themselves, seems to conflict with all my ideas of Divine justice. That Christ should offer an atonement and satisfaction for the sins of all men, and that afterwards some of those very men should be punished for the sins for which Christ had already atoned, appears to me to be the most monstrous iniquity that could ever have been imputed to Saturn, to Janus, to the goddess of the Thugs, or to the most diabolical heathen deities. God forbid that we should ever think thus of Jehovah, the just and wise and good! (C. H. Spurgeon's Autobiography, Vol. 1, p. 172, in "A Defense Of Calvinism," The Banner Of Truth Trust edition)
Spurgeon failed to take heed to Proverbs 3:5-6. Contrary to Spurgeon's harsh words against the only Lord God (Jude 4, 14-15), the Word teaches the very thing Spurgeon abhorred.
Yet if your brother is grieved because of your food, you are no longer walking in love. Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died. (Romans 14:15)
Destroying in this context is destroying "the work of God" (Romans 14:20). Is this destruction unto perdition? Yes, note Paul's similar words in 1 Corinthians 8:10-13.
For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol's temple, will not the conscience of him who is weak be emboldened to eat those things offered to idols? And because of your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.
Paul is here concerned about a brother being caused to stumble unto perdition ("perish"), and this is a brother for whom Christ died. It should be obvious that Paul is speaking in truth and reality, not fantasy, and it is certain that he is concerned about perishing eternally; because Jesus said,
But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched - where "Their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched." (Mark 9:42-44)
It is no wonder Paul said, "if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat!" (1 Corinthians 8:13)
Note further Hebrews 6:6.
. . . if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.
This text speaks of those who will certainly go to hell, yet they are those for whom Christ died. How do we know this? Christ was crucified once for them, and this text says, "they crucify again for themselves the Son of God."
Hebrews 10:29 similarly says,
Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?
For this person, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins (Hebrews 10:26), which means there was a sacrifice for sins for them at one time. This former believer was sanctified "by the blood of the covenant". In other words, they were made holy by the death of Christ and His shed blood in the past, but now they are without hope (Hebrews 10:26-27). This certainly describes one for whom Christ died, but ends up in hell nonetheless.
2 Peter 2:1 is quite graphic.
But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction.
This speaks of false teachers who are doomed to eternal destruction (2 Peter 2:3, 9, 12, 14, 17) and it says here the Lord bought them. If 1 John 2:2 is true (and it is), we can know what He bought them with - His own blood. In fact, for those who want to play word games (2 Timothy 2:14), the term here "bought" is the Greek word agorasanta (from agorazo) and it is used in 1 Corinthians 6:20 (bought at a price); 7:23 (bought at a price); Revelation 5:9 (redeemed) and 14:3 (redeemed). It is also used in Matthew 13:44, 46; 15:46; 25:9; Luke 14:18; Revelation 3:18; 18:11; etc. for buying in a material way. The Greek word for "Lord" is despotan and this is used elsewhere for the Lord God in Luke 2:29; Acts 4:24; 2 Timothy 2:21; Jude 4 and Revelation 6:10. Jesus is the Lord God, and thus 2 Peter 2:1 is speaking of Jesus, who paid the price for the sin of these false teachers.
Now, someone may ask, "How could this be? How could Christ pay for the sins of false teachers and for all mankind, and yet these false teachers and the majority of mankind still end up in hell?" Because, they did not access this grace by faith (Romans 5:2), but continued in unbelief. The grace of God has appeared to all men (Titus 2:11), but not all have faith (2 Thessalonians 3:2). The price for every man's sin has been paid, but only those who believe have access into this grace (Romans 5:2).
Finally, as we noted the erroneous gospel of Arminians (a faulty free will and conditional election), so the Calvinistic gospel is grossly in error. This is illustrated by John 3:16.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
As it is, Calvinists reject these words. Instead of believing them as they stand, the Calvinistic gospel is,
For God so loved the elect (He did not love the world) that He gave His only begotten Son, that the elect (not whoever) will (not should) believe in Him and will (not should) not perish but have everlasting life.
Truly, Calvinists preach another gospel (Galatians 1:8-9) as they reject the truth of John 3:16 and the host of passages above.
IV. Irresistible Grace (or Resistible Grace)
[For this point and the next, see also our report on Eternal Security.]
The Calvinist W. J. Seaton wrote,
God not only elected men and women to salvation; He also called those whom it pleased Him to elect. (The Five Points Of Calvinism, p. 14, italics in original)
And when the Holy Spirit calls a man, or woman, or a young person by His grace, that call is irresistible: it cannot be frustrated; it is manifestation of God's irresistible grace. (ibid., italics in original)
The Calvinist contends that God's call and His grace upon the elect is effectual. In other words, the person elect by God will succumb to His call and will not ultimately resist God's grace upon his life, but will take heed and be saved. Therefore, God's grace, His saving grace upon the elect, is irresistible. Arminians do not agree with this. The Arminian John Wesley wrote,
8. The Calvinists hold, secondly, that the saving grace of God is absolutely irresistible; that no man is any more able to resist it, than to resist the stroke of lighting. The Arminians hold, that although there may be some moments wherein the grace of God acts irresistibly, yet, in general, any man may resist, and that to his eternal ruin, the grace whereby it was the will of God he should have been eternally saved. (The Works of John Wesley, "What Is An Arminian?"; see also The Works of James Arminius, Vol. I, p. 664)
In this, both Calvinists and Arminians fail to acknowledge "the whole counsel of God" (Acts 20:27).
Scripture nowhere says that God's grace is irresistible. There is no verse that comes right out and uses these words. But, Scripture does reveal that salvation is so much the work of God that those who are saved are the recipients of an act of God that had nothing to do with them (John 1:13; Romans 9:16). For example, Ephesians 2:1-10 says,
And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
We were dead, and God made us alive. Titus puts it like this,
For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:3-7)
God saved us. This is His doing, His work, and His power.
Now, look at the extent of His power upon those whom He has saved.
Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God. (1 John 3:9)
1 John 3:9 says that the one who has been born of God "cannot sin." In the context of 1 John and in the context of the rest of Scripture, "cannot sin" equals "practicing sin" (1 John 3:7-8), i.e. continual unrepentant sinning (1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:19-21; Revelation 21:8). Therefore, if the one who is born of God (saved) "cannot sin," what does this mean in regards to resisting God's grace? He "cannot." To resist God's grace unto perdition would be to sin continually and unrepentantly, but those born of God cannot and will not do this. As Hebrews 10:39 says,
We are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.
God's grace is so complete in God's elect (Colossians 2:10) that God makes it so that those saved by Him, those born of God, cannot resist His grace. They "cannot sin" (1 John 3:9). Can this be called irresistible grace? Yes, it may.
Now, even though this is all true, Scripture warns the elect not to resist His grace by either sinning (Hebrews 10:26-39) or being led astray (2 Peter 3:17-18; Jude 20-21). The elect are exhorted to continue in the faith (Acts 13:43), abide in Christ (John 15:1-6), not neglect so great a salvation (Hebrews 2:1-3), to beware (Hebrews 3:12), to fear (Romans 11:20-22; Hebrews 4:1; 1 Peter 1:17), to be diligent (Hebrews 4:11), to look carefully (Hebrews 12:15), and to not refuse Him (Hebrews 12:25). In other words, the elect are exhorted over and again to not resist His grace. Even though 1 John 3:9 says that those born of God cannot sin, Scripture warns them nonetheless not to sin.
Moreover, the Word also teaches that God's grace can be resisted. The grace of God can be received in vain (2 Corinthians 6:1), and a believer can even fall from grace (Galatians 5:4). Paul said to the Galatians,
I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, (Galatians 1:6)
These were "called" "in the grace of Christ," and yet they were found to be "turning away" from Him. In other words, they were resisting His grace. For those who continued in such a path, Paul said,
You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. (Galatians 5:4)
These are those who were in the grace of God, but then were estranged from Christ, no longer gaining access into this grace (Romans 5:2). Paul told the Romans that they stood by faith (Romans 11:20). If a believer stops believing, and dies in such a state, they go where all unbelievers go, the lake of fire (Revelation 21:8). This is why Paul said,
Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. (1 Corinthians 10:12)
V. Perseverance Of The Saints (or Conditional Security)
[See also our article on Eternal Security.]
The Calvinistic Westminster Confession of Faith (chap. 17, sec. 1) states,
They whom God hath accepted in His Beloved, effectually called and sanctified by His Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace; but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved. (Dictionary of Theological Terms, by Alan Cairns, p. 266, copyright 1998, Emerald House, Greenville, SC)
The Calvinist Alan Cairns elaborates on this confession with,
1. God's elect will certainly be eternally saved.
2. Those who have once been regenerated by the Holy Spirit can never completely fall from that state and be lost. (ibid., p. 267)
The Arminian Dan Corner quoting John Wesley gives the Arminian position:
On this authority I believe a saint may fall away; that one who is holy or righteous in the judgment of God Himself may never-the-less so fall from God as to perish everlastingly. (The Believer's Conditional Security, copyright 1997, p. 655)
John Wesley sums up the controversy with these words.
9. The Calvinists hold, Thirdly, that a true believer in Christ cannot possibly fall from grace. The Arminians hold, that a true believer may "make shipwreck of faith and a good conscience;" that he may fall, not only foully, but finally, so as to perish for ever. (The Works of John Wesley, "What Is An Arminian?")
Here again, both the Arminians and the Calvinists do not believe "the whole counsel of God" (Acts 20:27).
On the one hand, it is true that God's elect will certainly be eternally saved (Psalm 33:11). Paul wrote,
Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: "For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter." Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:30-39)
Paul's words depict a certainty that nothing ("any other created thing") will keep God's elect from ever perishing (i.e. being separated from God's love). Dan Corner argues against these verses by writing,
OSAS defenders equate the love of God to the life of God by using Rom. 8:38, 39. Since unsaved people are loved by God (Mk. 10:21), yet are without the life of God (Eph. 4:18) to equate the two is definite fallacy. (The Believer's Conditional Security, p. 618)
Mr. Corner displays his own fallacy. The term "love of God" has very much to do with salvation and the life of God. In John 5:42 Jesus used this phrase ("the love of God") to tell the Jews they were not saved, and in Romans 5:5 the love of God has been poured out in our hearts as it is part and parcel of our salvation. Those who do not know God may indeed be loved by Him (e.g. Mark 10:21; John 3:16), but this does not mean they are in the love of God, or that the love of God is in them. Also, a good question to ask would be, "What do those in hell have to do with the love of God?" They are experiencing God's hate and wrath, not His love (e.g. Psalm 5:5-6; Revelation 14: 9-11; 20:10; 21:8).
Finally, note 2 John 6 and 1 John 5:3.
This is love, that we walk according to His commandments. (2 John 6)
For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. (1 John 5:3)
Based upon 2 John 6 and 1 John 5:3, being separated from the love of God (Romans 8:35-39) is equal to being separated from keeping His commandments and walking according to His commandments, because the love of God is that we keep His commandments. If nothing then can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:35-39), then nothing can separate us from keeping (and walking according to) His commandments; because they are one and the same. If nothing can keep us from living a life of keeping His commandments, then nothing can bring us to eternal perdition (1 John 3:9). Yet, as nothing can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:35-39), we are nonetheless exhorted to keep ourselves in His love (Jude 21).
Another passage that reveals that God's elect will endure to the end (Matthew 10:22) is found in John 10.
My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. (John 10:27-28)
Dan Corner writes regarding John 10:27-28,
Verse 27 clearly describes the type of person who will never perish, as mentioned in the next verse! He said his sheep are listeners of his voice, whom he knows and who follow him.
The word translated follow is present indicative active in the Greek, which means that it expresses continuous action. In other words, as long as we remain faithful and continue to follow Jesus, he will, indeed, assure us that we will never perish, verse 28. To disregard verse 27 is to twist Jn. 10:28 out of context and distort Jesus' teaching.
The promise of never perishing, as cited in verse 28, does not exist anywhere in the entire Bible for one who would turn away from a dedication to Christ. (The Believer's Conditional Security, p. 359)
Mr. Corner's last sentence is indeed true, but what he fails to realize is that Christ's sheep will never "turn away from a dedication to Christ." In verse 27 Jesus is describing the character of His sheep. He is not speaking conditionally. Jesus does not say, "As long as [my sheep] remain faithful and continue to follow they will never perish," but rather, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me . . . and they shall never perish." Jesus is telling us facts about His sheep. He is not speaking conditionally, but rather factually.
Likewise, Jesus says,
My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father's hand. (John 10:29)
On this accord, the Arminian position is quite strange. Chris Jakway writes,
In other words, no one can snatch us out of the Father's hand against our will. We are indeed safe because we "through faith are shielded by God's power" (1 Peter 1:5, NIV). Thus, we are not told that it is impossible to voluntarily leave God's protection. Rather, we are assured that no one can take us by force from God's hand as we sit helplessly. (The Believer's Conditional Security, p. iii)
Jakway's words reveal that he does not understand the schemes of men (e.g. Isaiah 32:7), nor "the wiles of the devil" (Ephesians 6:11). Typically, it is through "cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting" (Ephesians 4:14) that men get swayed away from following Christ, for Satan "deceives the whole world" (Revelation 12:9; 2 Corinthians 4:4). Deception plays a big part in someone's decision "to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them" (2 Peter 2:21). Therefore, it is foolish to speak of "voluntarily" leaving God's protection, or being taken "by force from God's hand as we sit helplessly." Everyone who stops following Christ does so "voluntarily," be it through deceit or overt wickedness, and they typically get devoured by the devil (1 Peter 5:8).
This is why Jesus' words in John 10:27-29 are so awesome. Jesus is stating some awesome facts about His sheep. They hear His voice; i.e. they believe the Word of God (John 8:47). They are known by Him; i.e. they are saved (Galatians 4:9). They follow Him; i.e. they obey the Word of God (1 Peter 1:22). They shall never perish; i.e. they will endure to the end (Matthew 10:22). And, they cannot be removed from God's hand, because God has made it so not even they will decide to remove themselves (1 John 3:9; Romans 8:35-39; 1 John 5:3-4). Indeed, Christ's sheep will never perish (John 10:27-29). They will persevere to the end.
Now, on the other hand, even though Scripture does dictate that God's elect (His sheep) will endure to the end (John 10:27-29; Romans 8:30-39), the Word also teaches about the reality of people who are temporarily in the faith, and then fall away to perdition. For example, Paul writes,
You will say then, "Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in." Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either. Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off. (Romans 11:19-22)
What will these believers be cut off from if they do not continue in His goodness? The context is the salvation of God that comes through the Jews (Romans 11:11, 26; John 4:22). In other words, here is described the possibility and reality of believers who are in God's goodness, in His salvation, and then get cut off!
John 15 describes a similar scene.
I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. (John 15:1-6)
In these words, Jesus describes a believer who is in Him, but does not remain (abide) in Him; and such a one ends up in hell, being burned (John 15:6; see also Luke 13:6-9).
The typical argument against these verses (Romans 11:19-22 and John 15:1-6) is that these verses (and verses like them) are not speaking of genuine believers, but rather those who "profess to believe." John MacArthur makes this argument. In reference to John 15, MacArthur writes,
The branches that bear fruit are genuine believers. Though in immediate context the focus is upon the 11 faithful disciples, the imagery also encompasses all believers down through the ages. The branches that do not bear fruit are those who profess to believe, but their lack of fruit indicates genuine salvation has never taken place and they have no life from the vine. (The MacArthur Study Bible, p. 1615)
Scripture does teach the reality of false believers, i.e. those who profess to believe, but in reality do not (Matthew 7:15, 21-23; 2 Corinthians 11:13, 26; Galatians 2:4; 2 Peter 2:1-2). But, this is not what Christ is talking about in John 15:1-6. Christ is talking about genuine believers. Those that are in Him. To be in Christ is to be sanctified (1 Corinthians 1:2; Hebrews 10:29). To be in Christ is to experience the wisdom, righteousness, and redemption of God (1 Corinthians 1:30; Hebrews 6:4-6). To be in Christ, is to be a new creature (2 Corinthians 5:17; e.g. 1 Samuel 10:6-7, 9; 16:14).
If this is so, how then could such a one fall away? The same way,
the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 8:12).
It is through unbelief (Revelation 21:8).
Hebrews 10:29 describes a believer who was actually sanctified by the blood of the covenant, yet he ends up in hell (Hebrews 10:26, 31; Revelation 21:8). Yet, as MacArthur twisted John 15, he likewise twists Hebrews 10:29. Referring to the statement, "the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified" (Hebrews 10:29), MacArthur writes,
This refers to Christ, in that He was set apart unto God (cf. John 17:19). It cannot refer to the apostate, because only true believers are sanctified. (ibid., p. 1915)
Right in the face of the truth, because it doesn't fit with MacArthur's theology, MacArthur denies the plain text. The text is clearly speaking of the apostate all the way through the whole of verse 29. Sandwiched between trampling underfoot the Son of God and insulting the Spirit of grace, we have, "counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing." This believer was set apart, made holy, by the blood of the covenant, that is, the covenant of salvation which comes through faith in Christ. Yet, this believer ends up perishing (Hebrews 10:26-31).
Likewise, Matthew 18:21-35 clearly describes a servant being forgiven (salvation), and yet because he bears no fruit; i.e. he is not forgiving toward others, he ends up perishing (Matthew 18:34-35; see also Matthew 6:14-15; Mark 11:25-26; Luke 17:1-4). Sadly, MacArthur perverts this passage as well (ibid., p. 1427; see also p. 1403).
Now, the appropriate question would be, "How can this be? How can there be people in the salvation of God, and yet they end up perishing (John 15:1-6; Hebrews 10:26-31); and at the same time, there are others who are in the salvation of God and it is impossible for them to perish (Romans 8:30-39; John 10:27-29)?" The answer is found in Matthew 22:14.
For many are called, but few are chosen.
So we say with Christ,
Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able. (Luke 13:24)
1. John Calvin Himself rejected the truth of Isaiah 45:7 and the reality of God as the cause of evil. Calvin wrote in his commentary on Isaiah regarding Isaiah 45:7,
Fanatics torture this word evil, as if God were the author of evil, that is, of sin; but it is very obvious how ridiculously they abuse this passage of the Prophet. This is sufficiently explained by the contrast, the parts of which must agree with each other; for he contrasts "peace" with "evil," that is, with afflictions, wars, and other adverse occurrences.
If he contrasted "righteousness" with "evil," there would be some plausibility in their reasonings, but this is a manifest contrast of things that are opposite to each other. Consequently, we ought not to reject the ordinary distinction, that God is the author of the "evil" of punishment, but not of the "evil" of guilt. (Commentary of Isaiah, Vol. 3)
"Afflictions, wars, and other adverse occurrences" can all come via the evil actions of evil guilt ridden people. Thus, if they come, God created it (Isaiah 45:7), all of it (Romans 11:36), not parts thereof. Calvin continues,
But the Sophists are wrong in their exposition; for, while they acknowledge that famine, barrenness, war, pestilence, and other scourges, come from God, they deny that God is the author of calamities, when they befall us through the agency of men. This is false and altogether contrary to the present doctrine; for the Lord raises up wicked men to chastise us by their hand, as it evident from various passages of Scripture. (1 Kings 11:14, 23.) The Lord does not indeed inspire them with malice, but he uses it for the purpose of chastising us, and exercises the office of a judge, in the same manner as he made use of the malice of Pharaoh and others, in order to punish his people. (Exodus 1:11 and 2:23.) We ought therefore to hold this doctrine, that God alone is the author of all events; that is, that adverse and prosperous events are sent by him, even though he makes use of the agency of men, that none may attribute it to fortune, or to any other cause. (bold added)
In hypocrisy, Calvin himself attributes it to fortune, since in his scheme it is by mere fortune the men God sends do any evil deeds that would bring what He sent them for, since "The Lord does not indeed inspire them with malice." Moreover, in hypocrisy Calvin claims, "God alone is the author of all events," when many events would not even exist (e.g. 9-11-01) without the evil deeds done by men. So, according to Calvin, "God alone is the author of all events," yet "The Lord does not indeed inspire them with malice." That will be true when the fire is quenched and the worm dies (Mark 9:48).
2. Speaking of the same event as in 2 Samuel 24:1, 1 Chronicles 21:1 records,
Now Satan stood up against Israel, and moved David to number Israel.
The Hebrew in this verse is quite interesting. Every other time in the Hebrew Bible when referring to Satan the person, the Hebrew word שָׂטָן (sâtân) is used with the definite article, הַשָּׂטָן (hasâtân). This is found in Job 1:6-9, 12; 2:1-4, 6-7; Zechariah 3:1-2 (vs. 1 also has the verb form, לְשִׂטְנוֹ [leshitno] "to oppose him"). Here in 1 Chronicles 21:1 it is simply שָׂטָן (sâtân) without the definite article. This same exact word, שָׂטָן (sâtân), is used of the Angel of the Lord in Numbers 22:22 ("adversary"), 32 ("to stand against you"; יָצָאתִי לְשָׂטָן [yâtsâ'tiy lesâtân] more literally, "I came out for an adversary"). שָׂטָן (sâtân) is used everywhere else as an "adversary" (1 Samuel 29:4; 2 Samuel 19:22 [H23]; 1 Kings 5:4 [H18]; 11:14, 23, 25; Psalm 109:6).
In the New Testament σατανας (satanas) "satan" is used with the definite article referring to Satan the person most of the time (Matthew 12:26 [2x]; Mark 1:13; 3:26; 4:15; Luke 10:18; 11:18; 13:16; 22:31; John 13:27; Acts 5:3; 26:18; Romans 16:20; 1 Corinthians 5:5; 7:5; 2 Corinthians 2:11; 11:14; 1 Thessalonians 2:18; 2 Thessalonians 2:9; 1 Timothy 1:20; 5:15; Revelation 2:9, 13 [2x], 24; 3:9; 12:9; 20:2, 7). Yet, it is found without the definite article where it is clearly speaking of the person Satan in Luke 22:3 (compare with John 13:27) and 2 Corinthians 12:7. Compare Mark 3:23 (without the definite article) with Matthew 12:26 (with the definite article). Σατανας (Satanas) is also found without the article in Matthew 4:10; 16:23; Mark 8:33 where all three are υπαγε οπισω μου, σατανα (hupage opisô mou, satana) "Get behind me, Satan" (or adversary). In Matthew 4:10 Jesus is speaking to Satan. In Matthew 16:23 & Mark 8:33 He is talking to Peter.
Moreover, the verb for "moved" in both 2 Samuel 24:1 and 1 Chronicles 21:1 is the same exact Hebrew word, וַיָּסֶת (vayyâset) found also only in Deuteromy 13:6 (H7, "entices"); Joshua 15:18 ("persuaded"); Judges 1:14 ("urged"); 1 Samuel 26:19 ("stirred up"); 1 Kings 21:25 ("stirred up"); 2 Kings 18:32 ("persuade"); 2 Chronicles 18:2 ("persuade"), 31 (God "diverted"); 32:11, 15 ("persuade"); Job 2:3 ("incited"); 36:16 ("would have brought . . . out"); Isaiah 36:18 ("persuade"); Jeremiah 38:22; 43:3 ("set").
3. It is debated as to whether Calvin actually adhered to the tenets of what today is called "Calvinism," particularly in regards to limited atonement. For example, in Calvin's commentary on 1 John 2:2 he writes,
Here a question may be raised, how have the sins of the world been expiated? I pass by the dotages of the fanatics, who under this pretense extend salvation to all reprobate, and therefore to Satan himself. Such a monstrous thing deserves no refutation. They who seek to avoid this absurdity, have said Christ suffered sufficiently for the whole world, but efficiently only for the elect. This solution has commonly prevailed in the schools. Though then I allow that what has been said is true, yet I deny that it is suitable to this passage; for the design of John was no other than to make this benefit common to the whole church. Then under the word all or whole, he does not include the reprobate, but designates those who should believe as well as those who were then scattered through various parts of the world. (www.biblestudyguide.org/comment/calvin/comm_vol45/htm/v.iii.htm)
Here Calvin sounds like a good limited atoner. Yet, in his commentary on Romans 5:18 he writes this:
He makes this favor common to all, because it is propounded to all, and not because it is in reality extended to all; for though Christ suffered for the sins of the whole world, and is offered through God's benignity indiscriminately to all, yet all do not receive him. (www.ccel.org/print/calvin/calcom38/ix.x)
And in his commentary on Acts 20:28 regarding "which he hath purchased" Calvin speaks of the possibility of "the redemption gotten by him [Christ] to be of none effect," a concept typically rejected by Calvinists today.
Whereby it appeareth how precious it is to him; and surely there is nothing which ought more vehemently to urge pastors to do their duty joyfully, than if they consider that the price of the blood of Christ is committed to them. For hereupon it followeth, that unless they take pains in the Church, the lost souls are not only imputed to them, but they be also guilty of sacrilege, because they have profaned the holy blood of the Son of God, and have made the redemption gotten by him to be of none effect, so much as in them lieth. And this is a most cruel offense, if, through our sluggishness, the death of Christ do not only become vile or base, but the fruit thereof be also abolished and perish; . . . (www.ccel.org/print/calvin/calcom37/viii.v)
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