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Introduction to Calvinism

By Ted Sims

There is a beautiful parallel between God’s work with Israel in the Old Testament and Christ’s work in the New Testament.

In the OT we see God choosing a people for Himself, "For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth. The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; but because the Lord loves you…" (Deut 7:6-8).

Here we see God determining to love a people whom He has set apart. Those whom He loves He also provides a way of atonement for.

"And he shall make an atonement for the holy sanctuary, and he shall make an atonement for the tabernacle of the congregation, and for the altar, and he shall make an atonement for the priests, and for all the people of the congregation" (Lev 16:33; KJV).

The parallel between this OT teaching and what is taught in the NT should become apparent as we proceed. For the sake of memory I will use the Calvinist acrostic T.U.L.I.P.

T.U.L.I.P. - An Introduction

TulipT.  Christ came to a people who were in a state of Total Depravity - "There is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no, not one" (Rom 3:11-12).

"But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (1Cor 2:14). "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him" (John 6:44; see also Gen 6:5; 8:21; Matt 7:11; 19:17; 1Cor 12:3).

U.  God’s choosing of those He had predetermined to love is based on an Unconditional Election - "… just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved" (Eph 1:4-6; see also Ps 65:4; John 1:13; Acts 16:14; Rom 10:20).

L.  To those whom He came He provided an atonement for. This was a Limited Atonement - an atonement for His people ("the congregation"): "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45; see also John 10:15).

"… so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many" (Heb 9:28; see also Exod 4:21; Deut 2:30; Matt 1:21; 11:25-27).

I.  Those for whom He died He calls to Himself by grace, through the act of regeneration. This grace we call Irresistible Grace for the beauty and the pull of the love contained therein always overcomes our feeble objections.

"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. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified" (Rom 8:29-30).

"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)" (Eph 2:4-5; see also Ezra 1:1,5; 1Cor 15:10; Phil 2:13).

P.  Those whom He has chosen and died for He also keeps. This we call the Perseverance of the Saints - "… being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Phil 1:6).

"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" (Rom 8:38-39).

"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; see also Ps 31:23; John 4:13f; 5:24; Rom 11:29; Jude 1,24).

Ah, the beauty of Christ! The beauty of His eternal plan and the assurance of a salvation that rests, not in my hands, but in the hands of Him who created me!

Irresistible Grace?

Irresistible Grace? Yes, I’m afraid so. Think about it. If there are those that are elect then irresistible grace logically follows. If I am elect, I must come!

This does not mean that I will not resist the grace of God; rather, that God will overcome my resistance to fulfill His purpose in election. "… He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world … according to the good pleasure of His will" (Eph 1:4-5).

Dead Means Dead:
"And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins" (Eph 2:1). God made us alive. We weren’t wooed to life - we were "made alive." God, "… even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)" (Eph 2:5).

Life-preserverWhat does dead mean? Does it mean that I am spiritually sick, drowning in the seas and that I need God to throw me a spiritual life-preserver? Does God throw me a life-preserver that lands within my grasp but I still must grasp it else I’ll perish?

No. Dead means dead. We have drown. We are at the bottom of the ocean and God dives in, pulls us out, and breathes the breath of life into our lifeless form.

If God has given you the gift of eternal life, then you can no more undo this spiritual birth than you could undo your physical birth. You may be able to commit suicide and thwart the purpose of your mother by rejecting her gift but you can by no means thwart the eternal purpose of God (Ps 33:10,11).

Does God force us into the kingdom? No. We are at enmity towards God because we are spiritually dead. God, out of love, gives us the gift of spiritual life; our blind eyes are opened and we see the beauty of the kingdom. Our eyes being opened we naturally embrace the love of God and His kingdom.

We were dead in trespasses and sins, unable to see what was good for us; but God can see just fine! Out of the love which He has for His elect He gives what we could never gain on our own. He opens our eyes to see what we couldn’t see. Can God’s gift be rejected? I don’t believe that it is possible; but even if it were: who would want to reject it! What blind man given his vision wants to return to blindness? What paralyzed person would want to return to his wheelchair after being healed?

Regeneration, then faith:
God regenerates us and then we put our faith in Christ. We do no believe first and then we are regenerated. In John 3:3 Jesus said, "… I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3b).

We can’t put our faith in a kingdom which we can not see, can we? I am speaking of spiritual sight as opposed to physical sight. We can no more enter a spiritual kingdom which we can not see than we can enter a physical kingdom we can not see.

In both instances it is like a man in the desert desperately needing a drink of water. Ten feet to his right lies an invisible canteen. Now granted if he were to walk over and drink from the canteen, he would live. But the canteen is invisible. He cannot drink from a canteen that he does not know exists!

In John 6:37 Jesus says, "All that the Father gives Me will come to Me" (John 6:37). All that the Father has given to Jesus (the elect) will come. Christ says they will come. Why? Because God takes the initiative. He breathes the breath of life into a spiritually dead corpse and we live.

He reveals to us the canteen containing the "Living Water" that we so desperately need. This is regeneration - spiritual birth or being born again. Once this has happened we can "see the kingdom of God" and though we may initially resist we will never reject the kingdom. It’s too beautiful to reject; so beautiful is it that we can’t reject it.

Before regeneration I can not see the kingdom of God; but after God regenerates me I can then see the kingdom and I put my faith in it, which leads to salvation.

The elect could not opt to be non-elect for God through regeneration has opened their eyes to the kingdom thereby overcoming their resistance. Nor could the non-elect opt to be elect for the very fact that they are spiritually dead and do not know a kingdom exists.

God regenerates then you believe. If you are one of the elect you can resist; but God will overcome that resistance for He loves you (1John 4:7-10).

Arminianism: A Brief Introduction

In the sixteenth century James (or Jacob) Arminius voiced a false teaching which stripped God of His sovereignty in salvation and gave it to the whims of man. In the nineteenth century Charles Finney popularized this idea. Today, the overwhelming majority of the "church" embraces this false teaching known as Arminianism.

The "health and wealth gospel" often promoted by TV evangelists is the logical conclusion of it. By taking God out of the center of the Gospel and placing "man" in His place we have distorted the whole of the Gospel. We no longer seek God’s will, purpose, and glory but rather health, wealth, and prosperity.

It used to be that the chief end of man was to glorify God and enjoy Him forever - now it is to glorify man and to enjoy ourselves whenever. What a tragedy.

I am vehemently opposed to Arminianism. This, however, does no mean that I believe that all Arminians are non-Christians. This is an "in house" debate. But rather, I believe that their position is a gross misinterpretation of Scripture. I believe that not "man" but God is sovereign.

The Calvinist view upholds the sovereignty of God. The Arminian view stresses the free-will of man. The Calvinist view is the correct view, I believe.

Simply stated, Calvinists believe that while man is free, his freedom is limited by the sovereignty of God. It is a God-centered Gospel. The Arminians believe that man is "totally free" to choose God whenever he wants. It is a man-centered "gospel." The Arminian position not only undermines the grace of God but overlooks the condition of man as well.

John 6:44:
It is because man is in a state of "total depravity" that he is unable to choose God apart from a sovereign act of God. In John 6:44 Jesus says, "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him" (John 6:44).

Here, the condition of man is seen as being that of a total state of depravity and unable to come to God. But wait! We have a conditional clause here. The condition is that unless the Father draws me I can not come.

So then apart from the sovereign salvific initiative of God (Him drawing me) I can not come! If I "choose" God apart from a sovereign salvific act by Him then God "owes" me salvation. This undermines His grace.

"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God" (Eph 2:8).

John 10:26:
SheepOther verses to compare on this subject are John 1:12-13; Romans 9:6-23; Acts 13:48; John 17; John 10:25-29. Pay close attention to John 10:26 where Jesus says, "But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you."

Notice Jesus says that the reason they don’t believe is because they are not His sheep. He does not say that the reason they are not His sheep is because they don’t believe; but rather, that the reason they don’t believe is because they are not His sheep. So then, the prerequisite of believing is that you have to first be His sheep.

This is referring to "election" and this is precisely where Arminianism goes wrong. The Arminian says that you are a sheep (elect) because you believe; but this is not what Christ says.

The whole world can follow James Arminius if they wish; but I will follow Christ! Here I stand!

Author’s Testimony

I am 27 years old. I have been in prison for 8 years. Though I’m no longer a criminal, I am a sinner saved by Grace - living Soli Deo Gloria.

God is truly amazing. When I first came down I was 19, a drug dealer, addict, and high school drop out. Now I’m going to college and writing ontological, teleological, and cosmological arguments for the existence of God. I am also studying Greek, Latin, and Spanish.

I was a high school drop out! I hated school and God. But He took my stony heart and gave me a heart of flesh. He has caused me to walk in His ways. My favorite verse is Ezek 36:26f.

Any comments or questions on this article are welcome. I can be reached at:
Ted Sims ~ 543294 Estelle ~ Huntsville, TX. 77340

A very good introduction to Calvinism in book form is R.C. Sproul's Chosen by God.

Note: All Scripture references from: The New King James Version. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982, unless otherwise indicated.

The above article was published in Darkness to Light newsletter
and posted on this website in June 1997.

Calvinism - Introductory Articles
Calvinism (Reformed Theology)

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