Calvinism, the Truth ... Arminianism, the Lie
Rev. Robert C. Harbach
Where there is access to a good theological library
or to the old editions of worthy religious books, there are, in this
anti-intellectual age, few professing Christians who avail themselves of
the privilege of exploring the subject of "The sovereignty of God." How
few have ever read a book bearing such a title! One must make a rather
exacting search to find material comprehensively treating the entire
scope of this field -- the whole counsel of God, the doctrine of
Predestination in its two parts: election and reprobation. For though in
the "making of many books there is no end" (Ecc.
12:12), yet this truth is made gradually to disappear and at length
be forgotten. This is due to a determined decline from what is both
Calvin's and the Church's Calvinism. This becomes evident when sovereign
reprobation, if not expunged altogether from popular literature, is
removed from its rightful place of prominence next and subordinate to
election, and is relegated to a mere footnote or appendix. Repugnant to
"the flesh" (Gal.
5:17) it is, but no mere appendage to holy Scripture. It is an
integral part of the fundamental principle of that system of truth
taught in the Bible and known as the Reformed Faith.
In the interest of that Faith it is much more than in
good taste once again to place this Gospel nicknamed "Calvinism" before
the public. For the true church always fulfils its obligation to do so.
The true church over against the false church is readily identified by
its distinctive marks: the pure preaching of the Word of God, the proper
administration of the sacraments, and the maintaining of good order in
life and worship. Such a church is no hypocritical church. It stands, as
the truth does, antithetically to the lie. The truth is, "our God is in
the heavens: He hath done whatsoever He hath pleased" (Ps.
115:3). The truth is God's thesis. The truth is also God's
antithesis to the lie. Calvinism is the eternal truth. Arminianism has
always been an inveterate lie. The motive, therefore, for publishing
these fundamentals of faith is not, contrary to the spirit of the times,
to secure premature "decisions" for, or unintelligent acceptance of the
Christian position, but to proclaim the Word of truth, leaving
conversion and salvation, which are impossible as well to the eloquent
preacher as the pleading evangelist, to the sovereign will of God and
the power of the Holy Spirit (I
ARMINIANISM is that rejected error which has become
the most insidiously devised heresy ever to lay claim to Biblical
support. Its allure and popular appeal arise from its subtle flattery of
depraved human nature, and in its apparent Scripture basis. In loud
tones it pretends to the sovereignty of God. "He sovereignly controls
all creation, universal nature and the whole of mankind; His supremacy
pertains to all things, everywhere. Nothing escapes His surveillance and
all-pervading control. 'The eyes of the Lord are in every place,
beholding the evil and the good' (Prov.
15:3). It includes our lives; for 'in Him we live.' It embraces our
actions, for 'in Him we move.' It extends to our very being, for in Him
'we have our being' (Acts
17:28). We devise our own plan, but the Lord 'directeth our
16:9). Yet His superintendency is so exercised that God is not the
ordainer of sin, but only by His providence permits it. Neither
does He coercively prevent it, and thus infringe upon man's free will
and responsibility. Indeed, in that providence God does not allow
His sovereignty to interfere; for He has created and maintains man's
free will inviolate. Hence Joseph says of the crime of his wicked
brethren, 'But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it
unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people
50:20). In the spiritual realm, God tenders His primary will that
men be saved by obedience to the covenant of works (Gen.
3). When man broke that covenant, He, according to His ultimate
will, employed an emergency plan—the Cross—that men be saved by
compliance with the conditions: 'except ye repent, ye shall all likewise
13:3, 5)." Here is the lie fostered that man takes central position
at the hub of the universe. Man is almighty man!
CALVINISM has for its first principle, "In the
beginning God!" He is the centre of the universe. "For of Him, and
through Him, and to Him are all things: to whom be glory for ever! Amen"
11:36). In the realm of creation, nature, and providence, absolutely
nothing occurs without God's appointment; but He works all things
according to the counsel of His own will (Eph.
1:11). Nothing happens by chance, but by the direction and
ordination of our gracious heavenly Father. "My counsel shall stand and
I will do all My pleasure ... yea, I have spoken, and I will also bring
it to pass; I have purposed, I will also do it" (Is. 46:10-11). Also God
does more than merely to permit evil: He gives the power to
perpetrate it: "Thou couldest have no power against Me, except it were
given thee from above" (John
19:11), for "power belongeth unto God" (Ps.
62:11). Further, He sovereignly determines beforehand that the evil
shall be done according to His eternal counsel: "for of a truth against
Thy holy child Jesus, whom Thou hast anointed, both Herod and Pontius
Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered
together for to do whatsoever Thy hand and Thy counsel determined before
('foreordained,' ASV) to be done" (Acts
4:27ff). Though Joseph's brethren did wickedly sell him into Egypt,
it is nevertheless true that it was not they but God Who sent him there;
for it was God Who ordered their evil act (Gen.
45:8). The principle of Scripture is that evil rulers and their
wicked actions come to pass by His ordination. "The Most High ruleth in
the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever He will, and setteth up
over it the basest of men" (Dan.
4:17). "The powers that be," though the most degraded, "are ordained
of God" (Rom.
13:1). The evil of war also is God's work: "for it was of the Lord
to harden their hearts, that they should come against Israel in battle,
that He might destroy them utterly, and that they might have no favour,
but that He might destroy them" (Josh.
11:20). In fact, man acts only when activated by God. "In Him we
love and are moved" (Gr., passive), so that we cannot turn to
what is right unless God turns us. "Turn Thou us unto Thee, O Lord, and
we shall be turned" (Lam.
5:21). A man's heart indeed does devise his way, but never
independently of God's control. For his very thoughts and words come by
the sovereign operation of God upon his heart. "The preparations of the
heart in man, and the answer of the tongue are from the Lord" (Prov.
16:1). "Man's goings are of the Lord, how can a man then understand
his own way?" (Prov.
20:24), i.e., by his own would-be autonomous way? God's will alone
is absolutely free; and man's will is always subject to His. "And all
the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and He doeth
according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants
of the earth: and who can stay His hand, or say unto Him, What doest
4:35). God is equally as sovereign in the field of grace. Here His
mercy is free, never suspended upon conditions required beforehand, as
for example, that man should repent, or use the light of nature aright.
No unregenerate man can or does live up to the light of nature (Rom.
1:20ff; 8:8); and repentance is a gift of free grace (II
Acts 11:18). Finally, the saving death of Christ was designed
chiefly for the praise and glory of God, not merely as a means to rescue
souls from hell. "To the praise of the glory of His grace," "that we
should be to the praise of His glory," and, the whole of "redemption
(is) unto the praise of His glory" (Eph.
1:6, 12, 14). "Unto you (God's elect people only) ... a
(Why? Primarily for man's betterment? No!) Glory to God in the
2:11, 14). The highest truth of Scripture is that God in His eternal
purpose seeks His own glory. God is God!
ARMINIANISM, however, under its breath croons the
siren son of man's essential goodness. Man is only "very far gone from
original righteousness," not really nor utterly dead in sin, nor
destitute of all powers to spiritual good, but is wounded, badly
corrupted, and left half dead (Luke
10:30). Though he be totally depraved, yet he remains a free moral
agent, and can still hunger and thirst after righteousness and life (Matt.
5:6); he can believe (Acts
16:31), if he will; he can will and choose, or not will and not
choose Christ, and all manner of good which may be offered to him: "How
often would I have gathered thy children ... and ye would not" (Matt.
23:37), and, "Choose you this day whom ye will serve" (Josh.
24:25). Therefore the initial grace of God is not that almighty
power whereby He raises us out of death into life, but is only a gentle
advising whereby God does not produce the consent of man's will, but
merely proposes that consent to the will, and leaves man to comply and
convert himself: "Save yourselves from this untoward generation"
2:40). Man, therefore, after the Fall not only has power to do good,
but can so resist God (Acts
7:51, but see under 'Irresistible Grace') that he can entirely
prevent his (conditional) regeneration, since it is in his power to be
regenerated or not. For before regenerating grace can work efficaciously
in man's new birth, the will of man must first move, and determine to
comply with the conditions of regeneration, e.g., "I have set before you
life and death...therefore choose life ..." (Deut.
30:19). To be sure, God must give the grace to conform to the
prescribed prerequisites, as we ourselves can do nothing. Nevertheless,
regeneration is a work of God in harmony with the free agency of man and
performed on conditions required of man. "As many as received Him, to
them gave He power to become the sons of God" (John
CALVINISM confesses the Scripture truth that man is
gone from original righteousness, has in his sinful flesh "no good
7:18), and that "there is none righteous, no, not one" (3:10). Man,
though physically (half or all) alive, is totally depraved, totally
deprived of all spiritual ability, "dead through trespasses and sins" (Eph.
2:1-3), and this death passed upon all men (Rom.
5:12). "We ourselves had the sentence of death within ourselves" (II
Cor. 1:9). Calvinism alone takes man's spiritual death seriously.
For man is dead, not merely half-dead; he is drowned, not simply
drowning. By the Fall, man lost all power unto good, or to better
himself. He is "wise to do evil, but to do good he has no knowledge" (Jer.
4:22). He can do no good when it is his nature only and continually
to do evil (Jer.
13:23). Freedom of will for fallen man is the ability to act
according to his nature. What is his nature? One totally corrupt, for
"the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who
can know it? I the Lord search the heart" (Jer.
17:9-10). His "carnal mind is enmity against God. It is not subject
to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then, they that are in the
flesh (unregenerate nature) cannot please God" (Rom.
8:7-8). This being true, unregenerate man cannot and will not
believe ..." (5:44), and, "they could not believe (12:37, 39). And
we never will until "we believe according to the working of the strength
of His power" (Eph.
1:19); for we "believe through grace" alone (Acts
18:27), i.e., our believing is the result "of the operation of God"
2:12). Why is this? Because faith is the gift of God, an exotic
something, not something native to man. Not all men have it: when Paul
speaks of "they which are of faith" (Gal.
3:7), he implies that some are not of faith: "all men have
not faith" (II
Thess. 3:2). Again, why? Faith is "the grace given" (Rom.
12:3, 6), not to all, but "was once delivered unto the
saints" (Jude 3). Furthermore, in regeneration and in the receiving of faith,
man is passive, as an infant in physical birth (and has all done to
it and for it—no co-operation!), and as in the initial work of
salvation. Then it is not "save yourselves," but as in the original, "Be
saved" (aorist passive), and indicates that God permanently makes alive
the sinner dead in trespasses and sins. Then he acts and lives Godward.
Thus the "receiving" and "believing" are acts of the regenerated who
born of God" (John
1:12-13), and so believed as born again, and because
regenerated. It is never true that one believes, and so is for that
regenerated; but one is regenerated so that he may and does believe: "he
that heareth ... and believeth ... hath eternal life" (5:24). Why
he hears and believes is because he "hath passed out of death,
into life" (Gr.). He had to be in life before he could believe! For
believing is evidence of regeneration.
The other texts Arminians appeal to under this
heading must not be made to say what they do not say. First, the will of
man can never disappoint or checkmate the will of God. Christ does not
say, "I would have gathered you, and you would not." Nor, "I would have
gathered Jerusalem, and she would not." Nor even, as some force the text
to say, "I would have gathered thy children, and they would not." But,
"I would have gathered thy children, and ye would not." That
plainly does not teach that the children Christ would gather were
unwilling to be gathered, but rather that the "generation of vipers"
were not willing that they should (Matt.
23:13, 15)! Of the two wills here, the finite will of "ye would
not," and the infinite "I would," the latter never fails, and the former
is always subservient to the latter. Secondly, it is Arminian
philosophy, not Scripture truth, which exhorts us to make a decision
between Christ or some other alternative. Scripture allows no other: it
is Christ or nothing! Moses does not bid us either to choose life or
death. His precept is "choose life!" This is further borne out by
the fact that Joshua did not give sinful Israel a choice between Jehovah
and idols. Instead, since it seemed evil to them to serve the Lord,
preferring either the gods of their fathers "or the gods of the
Amorites," it was in severe denunciation (not "invitation") that they
heard, "choose you this day whom ye will serve...but as for me
and my house, we will serve the Lord! ... Ye cannot serve
the Lord" (Josh.
ARMINIANISM pretends to believe the doctrine of
election. "Election is of such persons as believe and persevere in
faith." For God has chosen the act of faith as a condition of salvation,
which condition is a prerequisite unto the final establishment of man's
election: "repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ" are
everywhere presented as the conditions. If then, some men do not fulfil
the conditions, they may possibly have an election unto faith, but not
an election unto salvation. They may once have had faith, but unless
they also fulfil the condition of perseverance, they at last are lost:
"lest...when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway
Cor. 9:27). Thus their election can be unto a justifying faith,
without being a decisive election unto salvation. For it is necessary to
"give diligence to make your calling and election sure" (II
Pet. 1:10). God elects believers, it is contended, because He
foresaw their faith, their holiness, obedience and turning to Him in
final perseverance. These good qualities, therefore, do not have their
source in sovereign, immutable election; they are not fruits of
election; nor is election the cause of all our fruitfulness; but the
performing of these as conditions are the cause of the election. Where
we do read, "as many as were ordained to eternal life believed" (Acts
13:48) we are to understand that it means, 'as many as believed to
eternal life were ordained.' Or, if the familiar word-order be retained,
we are to understand "ordained" to mean, 'those who were ready'
(Twentieth Century N.T.), or 'those disposed,' i.e., 'those who felt led
to exercise faith.' Arminianism takes the basic virtues of salvation and
makes them previously necessary causes of election, foreseen as being
fulfilled by the finally faithful.
CALVINISM maintains with Scripture that the Lord
chose us not because we were holy, but "he hath chosen us in Him ... that
(in order that) we should be holy" (Eph.
1:4); not because He foresaw our obedience, but we are "elect ... unto
Pet. 1:2); nor because He foresaw our faith, for "God hath from the
beginning chosen you to salvation, through ... belief" (II
Thess. 2:13). The effect of election is that none believe except
those ordained to eternal life, chosen to faith and to
every saving good. The word "ordained" pertains to the eternal,
sovereign counsel of God. According to that counsel it means, "to
place": "as many as were placed to eternal life believed," i.e., to be
placed in such a way as to be rooted in and invested with eternal life;
it means "to give": "as many as were given to eternal life," i.e., those
under the dominion and ownership of eternal life believed. And since the
word is a passive verb ("had been ordained"), it implies that a word
omitted is to be understood. That word can be nothing else but "Lord,"
which appears in the first part of the text. "As many as had been
ordained"—by whom? By the Lord! It is not man's act, but God's. "I
speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen" (John
13:18), for, "ye did not choose Me, but I chose you, and ordained
you" (15:16). Our election does not depend upon anything in us, but upon
His own sovereign ordination. From God's point of view, it is absolutely
eternally firm and sure. Our diligence cannot make His decree any more
secure; it rather furnishes us with the comfort and joy which knowledge
of election affords (I
Thess. 1:4). God's election guarantees that none of His elect can be
fatally deceived (Matt.
24:24); that none can perish (John
10:27ff.) or be lost (6:39). God Himself is omniscient, omnipotent,
and never changes (Mal.
3:6). Therefore it is impossible that His election be changed,
recalled, disturbed, or disannulled. Nor can the elect be cast away by
God (Is. 41:9). They are cast away by men (John
6:37 with 9:34); and sometimes, because of their sins, they bring
reproach upon the Gospel, and so are blamed and disapproved by men,
enough, perhaps, to become useless in the Lord's service. But even if an
elect person should have a fear that he may become a reprobate, still he
is not, nor can he ever be. Scripture does not contradict itself (John
10:28, 35c). As to all God's people, their names were forever
written in heaven (Luke
10:20), and He unconditionally promises that He will not blot
out their name from that record (Rev.
ARMINIANISM bitterly repudiates the doctrine of
sovereign reprobation. It is this point which raises the most
controversy, and where we meet with the most serious and violent
agitation. It is precisely at this point that the carnal mind has the
greatest difficulty in submitting itself to the confines of the Word of
God, and of bowing to the incomprehensible counsel of God. When we ask,
"What of the fact that there are certain angels and men who were not
'ordained to eternal life'?" the answer often given is that "God
never sends anyone to hell, for His cross bars the way thence, so that
the damned send themselves there, as a result of treading the cross
underfoot: 'who hath trodden under foot the Son of God,' (Heb.
10:29). Indeed, for the sake of that cross God does not determine by
an indisputable will to leave anyone in the Fall of man, or to pass by
or leave anyone in the state of sin and condemnation. For 'God is not
willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance'
Pet. 3:9); [but cf. this under Limited Atonement.] Then it cannot be
absolute predestination which determines the reason why God sends the
gospel to one people and not to another, but rather because one is
better and worthier than the other to whom the gospel is not sent: 'But
seeing ye put it (the gospel) from you, and judge yourselves
unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles' (Acts
13:46). Why is one consigned to perdition while another is not? Not
as the result of an arbitrary partiality: 'there is no respect of
persons with God,' (Rom.
2:11); but rather because one is good and the other bad; the one
became a believer, and the other remained an unbeliever: for 'some
believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not,' (Acts
28:24); or the one is obedient and the other rebellious. Cf. 'Come,
ye blessed ... For I was an hungered and ye gave Me meat,' etc.,
with 'Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire ... For I
was an hungered, and ye gave Me no meat,' etc. (Matt.
25:34ff., 41ff.). If all this be so, 'reprobation' is no decree, nor
is it included in the decree of God, for wicked men reprobate
themselves; and some of the elect can and do perish, regardless of any
decree of God.
CALVINISM declares that we know only so much about
reprobation as God has seen fit to reveal, but that it is important we
do know that much. The Bible teaches that the elect are by nature
just as wicked, depraved, and worthy of damnation as the reprobate: "Are
ye not as the children of the Ethiopians unto Me, O children of Israel?
saith the Lord" (Amos
9:7). Yet the Lord had chosen the Israel of God (Gal.
6:16), and rejected the rest. For there is a personal election of
some to salvation (II
Thess. 2:13). There must, then, be other persons who are not
elected to salvation. God has not appointed His elect unto wrath: "For
God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by
our Lord Jesus Christ" (I
Thess. 5:9). There must, it follows, be others who are
appointed to wrath, and to fatal stumbling: for Christ is "a stone of
stumbling ... to them which stumble at the Word, being disobedient;
whereunto also they were appointed" (I
Pet. 2:8). There are some God gave to Christ: "all that the Father
giveth Me" (John
6:37); there are others He did not give to Christ: "I pray
not for the world, but for them which Thou hast given Me" (17:9).
There are some whose names were written in the book of life (Rev.
21:27); there are others "whose names were not written in the
book of life from the foundation of the world" (Rev.
17:8). To some "it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of
heaven, but to them (that are without, Mk. 4:11) it is not given" (Matt.
13:11). There are some whose welfare we are to seek (Neh.
2:10); there are others concerning whom Christ commands, "Let them
Jer. 14:11; 7:16. Some are made accepted in Christ (Eph.
1:6); others, "natural brute beasts, made to be taken and
destroyed ... and shall utterly perish" (II
Pet. 2:12). But it is altogether out of place to object here that
"God is no respector of persons." For if He were, no one would be saved!
All would be damned; for all sinned. It is not so amazing that God saves
"whom He will" as that He saves any! But this is not to present the
complete picture. As Judge, God has respect to no man's person, and so
can do no less than to conclude all under sin (Gal.
3:22). But as Saviour, He makes men to differ (I
Cor. 4:7); He distinguishes by "distinguishing mercy" one person
from another. This is evident from the free dispensings of His grace.
"The Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering; but unto
Cain and to his offering He had not respect" (Gen.
Furthermore, it is only the reprobate who are such
children of disobedience that they judge themselves unworthy of eternal
life; they make a covenant with death (Isa. 28:15). To that disobedience
they were sovereignly appointed (I
Pet. 2:8), and that self-adjudged unworthiness is their actual state
and condition to which they were of old (from eternity) ordained (Jude 4). Hence, "Art Thou not from everlasting, O Lord my God ...?
shall not die. O Lord, Thou hast ordained them for judgment" (Hab.
1:12). Concerning that "we" God says, "You only have I known (loved)
of all the families of the earth" (Amos
3:2). Here is reference to the Divine, eternal foreknowledge which
is not synonymous with prescience or mere knowledge beforehand. "To
foreknow" means to love from eternity. "God hath not cast away His
people which He foreknew" (Rom.
11:2). This love of God to the believer is the ground of the
believers' love to Him. "I know (love) My sheep, and am known (loved) of
10:14). But of the rest Christ denounces, "I never knew (loved) you"
7:23). Not even before the universe came into being did He know them—He never knew them! "For our God is a consuming fire" (Heb.
12:29). Every plant which He has not planted shall be uprooted (Matt.
15:13), and for the reason that it was not the Divine purpose to
engraft them into Christ or plant them as trees in His garden. This
makes clear the fact that God is not only sovereign in His goodness, but
also in His severity (Rom.
11:22), and that His sovereignty is absolute and independent: "He
hath mercy on whom He will, and whom He will He hardeneth" (9:18). The
hardened ones are so because He willed to harden them; He wills to show
the power of His wrath upon them; they had to be prepared unto glory (as
were the vessels of mercy), but are vessels made unto dishonour,
"vessels of wrath fitted to destruction" (Rom.
Consequently, why some are gifted with faith (and all
good works) by God in time, and some are not so gifted, is determined by
God's eternal decree. And that decree does not have chief reference to
the Fall of man, or even to the sins of the reprobate. For it was made,
"the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil"
9:11). Rather, the decree has primary reference to the sovereign
good pleasure and will of God, "who worketh all things (including
reprobation) after the counsel of His own will" (Eph.
1:11). Election is the main object of the eternal purpose of God.
The Fall and reprobation are subservient to that main object. "The Lord
hath made all things for Himself (for His own purpose); yea, even the
wicked for the day of evil" (Prov.
ARMINIANISM supposes that the Atonement of Christ is
"not according to a certain and definite decree to save some, but was
made according to a general, conditional offer of grace which God
desired to make to all men absolutely and indiscriminately, 'who will
have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the
Tim. 2:4). But, being conditional, the death of Christ does not
infallibly secure the salvation of anyone. The word 'atonement' is not
to be understood in the sense that it makes salvation actual, but
that it merely provided a possible salvation for the whole human
race: 'and He is the propitiation (provided remedy) for our sins, and
not for our sins only, but also for the sins of the whole world'
John 2:2). This possibility remains even for the so-called
reprobate: cf. Cain—'if thou doest not well, sin (a sin-offering) lieth at the door' (Gen.
4:7). In its extent, therefore, the atonement is universal: He died
for all the ungodly; the gospel being for 'whosoever,' 'whosoever shall
call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved,' (Acts
2:21). God loves everybody; He can hate nobody (John
3:16). The preaching of the gospel is grace for all who hear; for
'gospel' means 'good news'; but if the gospel provides salvation for the
elect only, it cannot be good news to those for whom no possible
provision of salvation has been made. This being so, the cross must be
outfitted like a blank check, providing universal redemption, payable to
the endorser, merely for his endorsement, which in turn completes the
stipulated terms of the atonement." By reason of this the final
effectuation of election and salvation depends upon the free will of
man. As a result, all or none may be saved! "Is it nothing to you, all
ye that pass by?" (Lam.
1:12) is so understood as that it may be anything to anybody.
CALVINISM sponsors the Biblical doctrine of
particular atonement, which does more than to render salvation possible,
but secures the actual salvation of those for whom Christ dies; and He
died for those the Father gave to Him (John
17: 2, 12). In the same manner, that death is not for a vague,
general "whosoever," but for "whosoever believeth" (3:16); and
they only believe who were ordained to eternal life (Acts
13:48). This implies that the "whosoever shall call" must be the
called according to His purpose and grace (II
Tim. 1:9). Notice then, when the Scripture says that Christ died for
the ungodly (Rom.
5:6), it does not say that He died for all the ungodly. Where
the word "all" does appear in connection with the atonement of Christ,
it has a meaning limited by the context. The arm of the Lord is not
revealed to all (Is. 53:1). Why not? Because the Lord had
sovereignly determined to harden and blind the rest so that they
could not believe (John
I Cor. 15:22 (Rom.
5:18) "All" means all in Christ; otherwise the Armenian will prove
more than he wants to prove. In
I Tim. 2:4 it is all classes of men. So with the word "any." Cf.
II Pet. 3:9, "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise (which is
never made to the reprobate), as some men count slackness; but is
long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should
perish, but that all should come to repentance." God is
long-suffering to us (His elect); and is not willing that any
of us should perish. Who are the "any?" the "us?" According to the
context, the "beloved" of v. 1, the "beloved" of v. 8; He is not willing
that any of His beloved should perish. So He is long-suffering over
them. But take "any" in the unqualified, absolute sense, and the
text is made to contradict other Scripture, where, for example, it says
is "willing to show His wrath" upon the "vessels of wrath," and
cause them under that wrath to end in destruction (Rom.
9:22). However, it is different with His "beloved." They shall never
perish. Another distinction is to be noted in the word "world." Did
Christ die for the whole world of men without exception? No, but for the
world of "whosoever believeth" (John
3:16), for the world which has its sin actually and really "taken
away" (1:29). The Lamb loves that world; He takes away its
sin. But of the wicked world it is said, "your sin remaineth"
(9:14). Their sins lie (crouch) at their own door, to pounce on them
like a roaring lion, dragging them down to the pit of hell. For them the
sin-offering and intercession of Christ are not, nor for the whole world
of all mankind, but only for those the Father gave Him (17:9). But
assuming He did die for absolutely the whole world, why does He not pray
for it? "I pray for them; I pray not for the world." The
truth of the matter is that there is an elect world, a world with its
sin removed (1:29), and a "world of the ungodly" (II
Pet. 2:5). Teach, however, that Christ died for all the sins of all
men, and the following results: God demands the penalty for sin twice!—once at the hands of His Son Who paid it all, and again at the hands
of those for whom He died (now in hell, themselves paying that already
cancelled debt!). But Christ lays down His life exclusively for the
sheep. To the rest He says, "Ye are not of My sheep" (John
10:15, 26). He does not lay down His life for them. Nor will
it do to say that God originally intended to save all. For from
the beginning it was not so: (Gen.
3:15). At the first, God put enmity between the children of God and
the children of the devil. From the first, the cross divided all men
into these two separate companies. Clearly, the cross was never intended
to save the serpent's brood. For the cross sovereignly maintains the
ordained enmity against the serpent's seed. And though temporal gifts
flow from the cross, they are not a blessing, but a curse to that
reprobate seed: "the curse of the Lord is in the house of the wicked;
but He blesseth the habitation of the just. Surely He scorneth the
scorners, but giveth grace unto the lowly" (Prov.
3:33ff.). The gospel itself must be and is to them a curse (II
Cor. 2:15ff.), not a blessing. They "are perishing" (Gr.) because
the cross is not saving to them (I
Cor. 1:18). From this it should be plain that God does not love all
without exception. Did God love Pharaoh (Rom.
9:17)? Did He love the Amalekites (Ex.
17:14ff.)? Did He love the Canaanites (Deut.
20:16)? the Ammonites and Moabites (23:3)? Does He love the workers
of iniquity (Ps.
5:5)? Does He love the vessels of wrath (Rom.
9:22)? Did He love Esau (Rom.
9:13)? Does He love "the people against whom He hath indignation for
1:4)? What is the central purpose of the cross? To "save His
people (and them only) from their sins."
ARMINIANISM insists that man can and does often
resist Divine grace (Acts
7:51); that the gospel does not present impossibilities to the
sinner, but where God commands, there man is able to obey. For the Lord
gives every sinner the ability to believe, then expects the sinner by
his free will to exercise faith and consent to the terms of salvation.
Sinners can therefore accept or reject the offer of grace at their
pleasure, since it obviously is of him that willeth and of him that
runneth (holds out). God does His part for man's salvation, in fact, has
done all He can for man without destroying his free agency. So that God,
frequently, in His great efforts to save man is displeased with Himself
and the results He finally obtains. He sets His heart on the sinner to
deliver him, and, as it were, labours till the going down of the sun to
deliver him (Dan.
6:14). Why He sometimes experiences this lack of success in
accomplishing the attempted deliverance is that He has created man with
a will sovereign in its own right: "wherefore say My people, 'We are
lords (sovereigns); we will come no more unto Thee'" (Jer.
2:31). For this reason God's counsel can be annulled and rendered
ineffectual by the perverse wills of impenitent sinners: "I have called
and ye have refused; I have stretched out My hand, and no man regarded;
but ye have set at naught all my counsel, and would none of My reproof"
1:24-25). The unavoidable inference is that it remains in man's
power to be regenerated or not, to be converted or to continue
unconverted. And since man has such power to choose or refuse, it may
very well happen that all the works of grace which God uses to convert
man may be so opposed, the Holy Spirit so resisted that his salvation is
prevented, though it was originally possible.
CALVINISM rejoices in the truth that saving grace is
irresistible. God does not save any against their will, it is true.
Nevertheless "it is not of him that willeth nor of him that
runneth but of God that showeth mercy" (Rom.
9:16). The counsel of God as to its precepts the wicked do
invariably and consistently disregard. But the counsel of God as to its
eternal purpose, which embraces sin itself in its Divine plan, is
incapable of being set at nought. "For who hath resisted His will"
(9:19)? Man's will is always subservient to God's sovereign will. God is
always Almighty God! Therefore they who did resist the Spirit, did
not resist the Spirit in them, for they were devoid of the
Spirit. But that resistance is to the Spirit in the prophets, and in the
ministers of the Lord; it is resistance to the external calls and
reproofs through the preaching of the Word. But when the Spirit is
in men in His grace of conversion, and so acts with a will to convert,
He thus makes them willing, and turns them forever to Himself. "Thy
people shall be willing in the day of Thy power" (Ps.
110:3). Unregenerate men may and will refuse and repudiate God's
Word all they please, disregard His admonitions years on end, but when
the time comes for God's counsel to be fulfilled in their conversion,
then God's mercy at the precise moment decreed shall invincibly overcome
their obstinacy, causing them gladly to trust and obey Him. "thou shalt
arise and have mercy upon ion: for the time to favor her, yea,
the set time, is come" (Ps.
102:13). What more conclusive testimony that never by free will (John
Zech. 4:6) are we saved, but by God's irresistible power (Eph.
1:19) working in us a new heart, removing hardness (and
unwillingness), and inscribing God's law in our heart (Eze.
36:26ff.)! The dead sinner does not open his heart to the Lord Jesus
Christ and let Him come in to save. That is an idea prominent in
Arminian hymnology, but is nowhere in Scripture. Christ must first open
the heart (Acts
16:4), and then the heart receives Him. Christ must first come to
the sinner, so that the sinner may come to Him. God gives the elect to
Christ in eternity. That guarantees that in time, they "shall
come" to Him (John
6:37). Man, of himself, has not the ability to come to Jesus, will
not come (John
5:40), and cannot will to come until the Father draw him (6:44).
God's giving the new heart causes the renewed sinner to walk in
His ways. How else can a heart of stone open to Him? How can a heart
that is enmity against God be willing for Him to improve it? But, assume
that the power of God's saving grace can be baffled, and God must be
supposed to will that all men be saved, yet nevertheless it must finally
be, not as He wills, but as they will! However, the truth remains that
grace saves those who are "the called according to His
purpose"—saves with an almighty power—for they must be saved with
an everlasting salvation!
Perseverance of the
ARMINIANISM wrests Scripture to teach that it is
possible for the true believer to fall from the grace of salvation (Gal.
5:4); and that each believer is provided with sufficient ability to
persevere and preserve himself, if only he will: ("And ye will not come
to Me, that ye might have life."
John 5:40). It all depends on the choice of man's will, whether he
will persevere or not. (This denies everything thus far so irrefutably
declared!) The error continues: not only is it possible that believers
fatally and finally fall, sin unto death, and be eternally lost, but
indeed, may often fall, be often recovered, yet in the end be lost to
God. "Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of
unbelief in departing from the living God" (Heb.
3:11). There is, then, no such thing in this life as certainty of
eternal security, nor assurance of perseverance: "Have not I chosen you
twelve and one of you is a devil? ... And began every one of them to say
unto Him, Is it I, Lord?" (John
CALVINISM is strong in the Divine Word that no true
believer can ever fall from Christ and salvation. For He promises, "I
give unto them (the sheep) eternal life; and they shall never perish,
neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand. My Father which gave
them Me is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of My
Father's hand" (John
10:28ff.). This promise is made unconditionally to God's people. It
is not qualified by any additions of "ifs," "buts," "perhaps," "maybes,"
etc. but is to be understood in its plain, unencumbered, unequivocal
sense. God's covenant is equally sure. In that Covenant He swears that
He will never leave His people, and will so keep them that they shall
never forsake Him: "I will make an everlasting covenant with them, and I
will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put My fear in
their hearts, that they shall not depart from Me" (Jer.
32:40). So our salvation, and our remaining in that salvation in no
way depends on us, or on our feeble will. Yet we are confident of this
very thing (not of our doing, but) that He Who hath begun a good work in
us will perform and perfect it unto the day of Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:6).
We trust not in our own strength (we have none!), but in H is power to
keep us from falling and to present us faultless before Him! And when
the elect do fall, the Lord raises them up (Prov.
24:16). So that He is faithful, who will not suffer us to
perish, but will establish us, and keep from evil (II
Thess. 3:3). Of this the believer may be certain, and have the
assurance of faith now and forever, even though, within the organism of
the church, there are some who depart from God in unbelief. But the
elect "are not of them who draw back unto perdition, but of them that
believe to the saving of the soul" (Heb.
10:39). "The righteous shall hold on his way," and as God has
promised, he shall never depart from that way; but rather he shall
become "stronger and stronger" (Job
17:9). The believer remains a believer; he does
persevere to the end, not by human effort, but by the power of God;
which power is exerted on his behalf not for any worthiness in him, but
for the sake of the Lamb Who alone is worthy! He, meanwhile and always,
belongs unto Jesus his faithful Saviour "who shall also confirm you unto
the end blameless, in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ" (I
The truth is never popular. We are, however, not
concerned with what is popular, but with what is right. The truth of
Scripture is one thing. What men would like to be true is another. The
question is, Are we willing to be bound by the Word of God? no matter
what the cost? Too few are willing to be that self-denying. The hatred
of the natural mind against God is such that though a man be shrewd,
intelligent, and able to see the arguments on both sides, yet he will
not admit the fundamental doctrine of absolute sovereign grace to be
true; or, if he know it to be true, still he refuses to receive
it. If an angel from heaven were to stand before him, and declare that
God redeems both objectively and subjectively only His elect people, and
that Christ Jesus prays not for the world, but only for those the Father
gave Him, such a (natural) man will not, cannot believe it. This whole
system of truth is contrary to the old nature; it is the opposite to
what men think to be in agreement with justice and experience. So that
the many who hate this doctrine are always ready to oppose it. Therefore
also comprehended under the brand of Arminianism are the following evil
forms of the same proud heresy: Universalism, Romanism, Pelagianism
(naturalism), Socinianism (modernism), Amyraldianism (synergism),
Baxterianism (hypothetical redemption), New School Presbyterianism
(religious humanism), etc. Calvinists, then, are the most hated people
in the universe! We know this from Scripture, reports, history, and
But this does not change the eternal purpose of God.
For "the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, the Lord
knoweth them that are His" (II
Tim. 2:19). Suppose every preacher in the U.S.A., or in the world
speaks the very opposite to these points! That means, humanly speaking,
we are in a very, very unpopular minority. But, with God and His truth
on our side (or rather, we being on His side), we are on the side of the
majority! Finally, it is our calling to preach that which God has
clearly revealed. We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and