I will not take the time to give historical info as to how the two schools of thought called Calvinism and Armenians came to be. I’m sure that most of the readers of Grace Digest know the story. The bottom line is Calvinists believe that God chooses individuals to be his own and draws them to himself granting repentance, faith, and obedience. The other camp, Armenians, put the emphasis on man’s free will, man’s faith, and man’s obedience.
I am not a 5 point Calvinist but I do believe the following things.
God decides who is going to believe before they actually believe.
This is clearly illustrated in Acts 13:48.
“Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed”.
It was not the faith of the listeners that caused them to be appointed to eternal life but the opposite. It seems from the text that all the people were glorifying God but out of the crowd only those appointed to eternal life believed.
Again in Acts we can find the same thing. Acts 11 records Peter’s report to the elders about the conversion of Gentiles. After he explained that they received the gift of the Holy Spirit just like he did (when he believed) verse 18 says,
“When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.”
Those 1st Century men understood that God enables sinners to have a change of mind and believe the good news. God always initiates the work of redemption in a person’s life. In both of these accounts in the book of Acts it is also clear that not everyone is “appointed to eternal life” and not everyone has “been granted repentance”.
Dead men have no will.
Ephesians chapter 2 is one of my favorite passages of the Bible. Read the inspired words of Paul about the condition of sinners and how God saves them.
“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. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
How terrible, how awful, and how hopeless our sinful state? All of those who are unsaved and all of us before we were saved were spiritually dead, walking in trespasses and sins, following the devil and his rule in the world, living out the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of our bodies and minds”. If that were not bad enough he says too “we were by nature children of wrath”. That is total depravity! It is the picture of sinners who are hopelessly lost and unable to help themselves.
Now the good news, God is a God of mercy and grace! We were like all of mankind in our sad condition but because of God’s mercy and love he “made us alive”! He did not make all of mankind alive, just “us”, the same ones he had chosen in chapter 1.
So the wonderful parenthetical phrase in verse 5 “By grace you have been saved”!
He raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly places, why? He tells us why. “
V7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus”.
Never forget this, our salvation is not about us, it is about him and his glory. He does not need me or you but we must have him.
This great salvation is not our doing, not apprehended by our works; we can lay no claim to our eternal state in Christ. You and I contributed to our salvation in the same way Lazarus contributed to his resurrection when Jesus made him alive, not a whit! We can only give God glory because of his great love and mercy.
God saves at this own discretion.
1 Peter 2:9-10 “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy”
Why us and not them? Why did we receive mercy and others didn’t?
1 Peter 2: “So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe,
“The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone,” 8and
“A stone of stumbling,
and a rock of offense.”
They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do”.
How can I read this plain teaching and disagree that some are destined to disobey the word? I can not and I will not.
I don’t understand fully the God I serve but I do know some things. I don’t have to know a “why”, mine is only to trust.