Why I am a Calvinist

by Nick Lotter on July 3, 2012

Since about 1610, there has been a big debate going on among Christians all over the world over the issue of Calvinism vs Arminianism, and which theological view is Biblical and correct. Some of you may know what I’m talking about, and some of you may not have even heard those terms before. That’s OK though. The point of this article is not to enter into a complex theological debate over which is the correct view of Scripture. I just want to share with you that I am a Calvinist, and I want to explain why.

The other reason I wanted to put this article on my website is because your choice between a Calvinist view or an Arminian view of Scripture will make a big difference to your view of Salvation, Redemption, Grace and Faith – all of which are not unimportant.

I should mention that my favorite teachers and mentors in the Christian faith are Paul Washer and John Piper, both of whom are Calvinists. I should also mention that this article is mostly a summary of John Piper’s much more in depth article on Calvinism, with my own thoughts and explanations thrown in. I highly recommend you read John Piper’s article. It’s much longer than my summary, but is definitely worth the read and will answer any doubts or questions you may have after reading mine.

You can read it here: What We Believe About the Five Points of Calvinism

First, a bit of a history lesson.

Along with Martin Luther in Germany, John Calvin was the most influential person behind the Protestant Reformation. This was when the term “Protestant” was coined – for those who “protested” against the false teachings and unbiblical practices of the Roman Catholic church – and when Martin Luther nailed his famous Ninety Five Theses on the door of the Castle Church of Wittenberg.

Calvin’s greatest literary work, Institutes of the Christian Religion (download), is still highly influential in the Christian church today. Churches which have inherited the teachings of Calvin are usually called Reformed. Other reformed branches of the Reformation are Lutheran and Episcopalian.

In the early 1600’s a Dutch chap by the name of Jacob Arminius studied theology at Geneva under the professor of theology, who was a Calvinist. Over time, Arminius rejected some of Calvin’s teachings and Arminianism was born.

To make a long story short, Arminians drew up their creed in Five Articles, which pretty much detailed their disagreements with Calvinist theology. Then, in response to the Amininians’ Five Articles, Calvinists wrote the Five Points of Calvinism to answer the Arminians. And so the debate between Arminianism and Calvinism begun and has continued over the centuries.

The Five Points of Calvinism

It’s time to get into the Five Points of Calvinism and why I agree with the Calvinist theology. Let’s get started.

1.   TOTAL DEPRAVITY

Man’s natural condition is total depravity. We are evil by nature, and without the hand of God restraining us, there is no limit to the amount of evil we would do to others. As Paul Washer puts it, without the grace of God restraining us, we all have the potential to be worse than Hitler.

Romans 14:23… for whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.

Romans 7:18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh…

Romans 8:7-8 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

“Flesh” refers to man in his natural state apart from the work of God’s Spirit. So what Paul is saying is that apart from the work of God’s Spirit all we think, feel and do is evil.

Now some might argue, “what about atheists who help the poor? Are they not doing good?” Well, let’s look at the definition of “good” in the context. It is good when unbelievers don’t break the law, or when they give to charity, or help their neighbour. It is good because those actions more or less conform to how God commands us to live. However, it is not righteousness in the sight of God.

1 Corinthians 10:31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 

God, by His grace, provides the resources and the ability to do good. Therefore, anything that is done that is good but is not done for the glory of God, is still rebellion against God and is sin.

Romans 3:9-18 …For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written: None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one. Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive. The venom of asps is under their lips. Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes.

Nobody in their natural state genuinely seeks God. Those who do seek Him are only wanting a small piece of Him; they are not seeking Him for who He is, but for what they think He can do for them – either to save them from death or to give  them worldly luxuries. They are not seeking the light of God. Nobody who seeks God just so that they don’t have to go to hell, or so that they can be promised health and wealth, are genuinely seeking God. They are seeking their own desires. This is why the prosperity gospel is so evil.

Ephesians 4:18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.

Ezekiel 36:26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 

Our hearts are hardened like stone towards God. We are blind and totally incapable of saving ourselves or reforming ourselves.

Our rebellion against God is deserving of eternal punishment

Ephesians 2:1-3 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience – among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

Children of wrath and dead in our trespasses and sins means in our natural state we are as good as dead and hellbound because of our corruption. Hell is very real and is the eternal punishment for the infiniteness of our guilt before the eternal God.

2 Thessalonians 1:6-9 since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might,

Matthew 10:28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

Matthew 13:49-50  So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Revelation 14:9-11 And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.”

In our natural state, we are in total rebellion against God and everything we do apart from the grace of God is sin. We are therefore totally depraved and deserving of eternal punishment. You may have never heard this before. However, it is important that we realize just how bad we really are and how totally depraved we are, so that we can see and appreciate just how awesome and glorious the work of God is in our salvation. Which leads me to point number 2…

2.   IRRESISTIBLE GRACE

The Holy Spirit can overcome all resistance and make his influence irresistible. God is sovereign and can overcome all resistance when He wants to.

The Old Testament is full of times when Israel resisted God, but when God undertakes to fulfill His sovereign purpose, nobody can successfully resist Him.

Daniel 4:35 all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?” 

Psalm 115:3 Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.

Because we are totally depraved, dead in our sins, having hearts of stone and incapable of reforming ourselves and seeking God, the only way that we can be saved is by irresistible grace. We can never believe in God or come to God unless God overcomes our rebellion and He replaces our heart of stone with a heart that believes in Him and desires Him.

Yes we do have free will, but we will always use our free will to resist God. If we humble ourselves and seek God, it is because God has given us a new, humble heart that seeks Him.

John 6:44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.

John 6:64-65 But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”

2 Timothy 2:24-25 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth,

Notice how both grace (John 6:65) and repentance (2 Timothy 2:25) are called gifts. Not only is salvation a gift from God, but the requirement of salvation (repentance) is also a gift. Somebody can sit and listen to a preacher preach the gospel all day and not repent (he resists the Holy Spirit). But, if God gives him repentance, the man can no longer resist the Holy Spirit because God’s gift is the removal of his resistance. That’s why it is called irresistible grace.

2 Corinthians 4:4-6 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

3.   LIMITED ATONEMENT

Atonement is the work of God through His Son Jesus Christ on the cross. The death of Jesus Christ atoned for us and God cancelled the debt of our sin. Why was atonement necessary? Why was it necessary for Jesus to die? Jesus’ death was necessary so that justice would be done, to show the justice of God. Would it be just if God just simply swept our sins under the carpet and forgave us our sins, just like that? Could that be considered justice? How would you feel if somebody murdered one of your loved ones, and God just swept the murderer’s sin under the carpet and forgave him purely because He is a merciful and loving God? That wouldn’t be justice at all. God is loving, and He is merciful, but He is also JUST, which is why Jesus had to die in our place. Jesus had to take our place on the cross, and take all the wrath of God for our sins on His shoulders, so that justice could be done.

Romans 3:24-26and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Atonement is the death of Jesus Christ at the hand of God. The issue of “limited atonement” asks the question, Who did Jesus die for? Did Jesus die for all men, or for some men?

Most of you will probably say that Jesus died for ALL men, i.e. for every man, woman and child ever born and ever going to be born. This is the popular world view and is the belief of Arminianism.

However, we need to understand something about Jesus’ death first. What we need to ask ourselves is, what did the death of Jesus Christ achieve for those for whom He died?

Did the death of Jesus remove God’s wrath and judgement and achieve salvation? or did it not achieve salvation, but only make available a place where people could come and find mercy? Now here you will probably answer that Jesus’ death achieved salvation. I hope you do, because that is the correct answer. But how does this answer affect the answer to the first question, for whom did Jesus die?

You see, if we say that Jesus died for all men the same way, then we would have to say that Jesus’ death did not achieve salvation – otherwise everybody would be saved, and we know that’s not the case. You would be saying that Jesus’ death did not actually save anybody – it just made them savable. You would be saying that Jesus’ death simply opened a doorway to a place where you could come in and, if you already had the faith and the repentance, ask God to save you. In other words, you would be saying that when Jesus said on the cross, “It is finished” (John 19:30), it actually wasn’t, and that there was still some work that needed to be done for your salvation – work that you had to do yourself. The work would only be finished once you had taken it upon yourself to repent and believe, and receive God’s grace and mercy.

It would be saying that Jesus did not purchase regenerating grace, and that people must regenerate themselves and bring themselves to believe and repent, before the work of the cross would be complete.

Does that sound right to you? If Jesus died for everybody in the world the same way, then surely everybody would be saved. Are we to believe that Jesus’ sacrifice was not perfect, and only bought grace for a few?

On the other hand, Calvinism does not limit the power of the atonement. Calvinism affirms that when Jesus died on the cross, he died for the salvation of God’s children. When Jesus was on the cross, God had in mind the salvation and perfect redemption of His children whom He had chosen. Jesus’ death did not just create an opportunity for people to be saved; His death actually achieved redemption and everything necessary for salvation – including the gifts of grace, faith and repentance. It was all achieved and finished on the cross for those whom God will save.

It seems then, that Calvinism teaches limited atonement (Jesus died for some men and was 100% successful), and the teaching of Arminianism is limiting atonement (Jesus died for all men but was only partly successful).

I believe the Calvinist teaching.

John 10:15 …I lay down my life for the sheep.

and for the rest…

John 10:26 but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep.

Jesus also said to the Father in prayer:

John 17:6, 9, 19 “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 9 I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. 19 And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.

and then we can also see the purpose of Christ’s death in:

Ephesians 5:25-27 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

Titus 2:14who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. 

To summarize:

Which of these statements is true?

  1. Jesus died for some of the sins of all men
  2. Jesus died for all of the sins of some men
  3. Jesus died for all of the sins of all men

Nobody would say the first one is true, because if Christ only died for some sins, then nobody would be saved because of the sins Christ didn’t die for

The Arminian answer would be number 3: Jesus died for all of the sins for all men. But then why are not all saved? They would probably say that it’s because some don’t believe. But is that unbelief not one of the sins Jesus died for then? If they say that unbelief is one of the sins Jesus died for, then why is that sin not covered by Jesus’ death and all unbelievers saved? If they say that the sin of unbelief is not covered by the blood of Jesus, then they are saying that men can be saved without having all their sins atoned for by Jesus.

Or, they have to concur with Calvinists, who choose number 2: Jesus died for all of the sins of some men – including the unbelief of those chosen by God, so that the price was paid in full for them, and that God could draw them freely by His grace irresistibly, out of the darkness and into His light.

4.   UNCONDITIONAL ELECTION

If we are all so depraved that we cannot believe in God, come to God or repent without being born again by God’s irresistible grace, and that grace is purchased only by Jesus on the cross, then it’s clear that anybody who is saved owes their salvation to God’s election.

Election refers to God choosing who to save. Unconditional means there are no conditions that man must meet before God saves him.

This is not to say that salvation is unconditional. Faith is a condition for salvation, but faith is not a condition for election. It’s the other way around – election is a condition for faith. In layman’s terms, faith is a condition for salvation – we cannot be saved without faith. But, before we can have faith, we must be elected by God. We cannot have faith if we are not one of the elect. So it goes like this: We are elected by God, therefore we have faith, therefore we are saved.

God chose who He would save before He laid the foundation of the world, and because of that He purchased their redemption at the cross and draws them to Him with His irresistible grace.

Acts 13:48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed

Notice the above verse doesn’t say that whoever believed was appointed to eternal life – it says whoever was appointed to eternal life, believed.

John 10:26 but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep.

Notice also that in the verse above, Jesus doesn’t tell the gentiles that they are not His sheep because they don’t believe. He told them they don’t believe because they are not His sheep. Being a sheep is something God decides for us before we believe. It is not because we believe, that we are God’s sheep – it’s the other way around: it is because we are God’s sheep, that we believe. Look at the following:

John 8:47 Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”

John 18:37 Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”

We see more of the unconditional nature of God’s grace in the following scripture:

Romans 9:15-16 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.

We can do nothing to initiate God’s mercy. If we are going to be saved, God will have to unconditionally take the initiative in our heart and irresistibly make us willing to submit to him.

Ephesians 1:3-12 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.

Romans 8:28-33 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified 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 gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.

5.   PERSEVERANCE OF THE SAINTS

Perseverance of the saints quite simply means that when you are truly saved and born again, you will be saved forever and cannot lose your salvation.

It follows logically that those who God chooses by unconditional election will persevere to the end and never be lost.  The foreknown are predestined, the predestined are called, the called are justified, and the justified are glorified. Their salvation is eternally secure.

Romans 8:28-33  And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

John 10:26-30 but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”

1 Corinthians 1:8-9 who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Philippians 1:6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. 

But what about believers who fall away, and backslide into sin? Well, the Bible says that there will be a falling away by some believers, but if the backsliding persists, and they persist in sin, it shows that their faith was not genuine and they were never truly born again to begin with. God calls us through His Word to be obedient to Him and to walk in the light. If we backslide and walk continually in sin, it does not mean that we have lost our salvation, but rather it is a sign that we were never truly saved to begin with.

1 John 2:19They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. 

Luke 8:9-14And when his disciples asked him what this parable meant, he said, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that ‘seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.’ Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away. And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature.

Conclusion

All of the above, in my view, can be summed up as follows:

We are all born in sin, totally depraved and in complete rebellion against God. If it were not for the grace of God restraining us, we would all be infinitely more evil than we could ever imagine. We use the free will given to us by God to choose our own will rather than His, to fulfill our own evil and selfish desires. If it were up to us, we would never seek God and would never humble ourselves before Him and submit to Him. Apart from the grace of God, we are utterly lost and without any hope whatsoever.

But God chose a people for Himself. He foreknew them before He even laid the foundations of the earth, He predestined them to be His children and calls them to be saved for His glory. He removes their resistance, and to them He gives the gift of irresistible grace, faith, repentance and redemption through the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ, who paid the price in full in His blood for their purchase so that God’s justice can be revealed to all mankind. 

Therefore there is nothing of which man can boast, because if man is saved, it is not through any thing that he has done or can ever be capable of doing. There is nothing that man can do to qualify himself for salvation. God leaves no reason for man to boast, because the irresistible grace that is given to God’s elect, the saving faith that enables him to believe, and the resulting repentance for his sins are all gifts given to the elect by God. There are no conditions man can meet, nor is there anything that the elect have ever done or can ever do to deserve God’s mercy and grace. 

Nevertheless, God grants grace, faith, repentance and redemption freely as a gift to His elect unconditionally. And just as He graciously and freely and gave His Son for His elect, He will also graciously and freely give His elect, whom He loves, all that they require. He will love them, care for them, feed them, discipline them, mold them and keep them in His warm embrace all the days of their lives, and nothing will ever be able to separate them from the eternal love of their God. All these things God has done for His glory. Amen.

Charles Spurgeon, a 19th century preacher, was the most famous pastor of his day and whose preaching was powerful in winning souls to Christ. This is what Charles Spurgeon said about the Gospel of Christ:

I have my own private opinion that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and Him crucified, unless we preach what is nowadays called Calvinism. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else. I do not believe we can preach the gospel…unless we preach the sovereignty of God in His dispensation of grace; nor unless we exalt the electing, unchangeable, eternal, immutable, conquering love of Jehovah; nor do I think we can preach the gospel unless we base it upon the special and particular redemption of His elect and chosen people which Christ wrought out upon the Cross; nor can I comprehend a gospel which lets saints fall away after they are called (AUTOBIOGRAPHY 1, p. 168).

In closing, I believe it is important to realize that God is sovereign. Everything, and all of Scripture, is about His sovereignty and His glory. Nothing in scripture is written for the sake of man or man’s glory. It’s not about man… It’s ALL about God. This is why I am a Calvinist. Calvinism is shows us the sovereignty of God in the Bible, and that everything He ever did, He did for His glory, and no other.

God will not share His glory with any other.

Join with me in prayer at this moment, I entreat you. Join with me while I put words into your mouths, and speak them on your behalf— “Lord, I am guilty, I deserve thy wrath. Lord, I cannot save myself. Lord, I would have a new heart and a right spirit, but what can I do? Lord, I can do nothing, come and work in me to will and to do thy good pleasure.

Thou alone hast power, I know,
To save a wretch like me;
To whom, or whither should I go
If I should run from thee?

But I now do from my very soul call upon thy name. Trembling, yet believing, I cast myself wholly upon thee, O Lord. I trust the blood and righteousness of thy dear Son…Lord, save me tonight, for Jesus’ sake.”

(From Iain Murray, The Forgotten Spurgeon [Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1973], pp. 101f.)

Amen.

What's Your View?

Loading Facebook Comments ...

Previous post:

Next post: