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What does the Bible teach about Calvinism and Arminianism?
This is a response to Calvinism, Arminianism and what the Bible truly teaches. Calvinism and Arminianism for years has been a controversy within Christianity, and I do not claim to be the greatest scholar on this but I will say that I do believe there are clear Biblical answers to these views. The purpose for writing about Calvinism and Arminianism is simply to share what we believe concerning these topics.
Calvinism is a word today that is used to express certain doctrinal view that Christians hold to as truth pertaining to the Sovereignty of God. In the simplest terms Calvinism means that God before the creation of the world and before anyone was ever born choose certain persons to be saved. Calvinism teaches that man of him or herself can not in anyway choose God, it is God who does the choosing and salvation for anyone is based upon God’s election, not that anyone decided to choose Him. Calvinism also says that man has free agency to make normal decisions in life but when it comes to wanting to know God and coming to receive Jesus Christ man has no free will in any sense because man by nature is evil and against God. Calvinism holds to what is called “Eternal Security in Christ” which means that all those who are Christians will never lose their gift of eternal life. There is much more that could be said but these are the very basics of Calvinism which goes back to a man named John Calvin which many have taken these types of views from and that is what is known today as Calvinism.
Arminianism is a word that is used to express the doctrinal views that man is free to choose God and was not forced or chosen without any decision on their part. Arminianism teaches that man has the free will to choose or reject God and God does not force Himself on anyone against his or her own will. Arminianism teaches that God’s will is for all to be saved and those who come to accept Jesus Christ do it both with the guidance of the Holy Spirit and them accepting the revelation of Jesus Christ themselves. Arminianism also teaches that man’s eternal life is not secure but can be lost. Arminianism teaches what is called the “abide in Me doctrine” which means as long as you are following and obeying the Lord in your life you have eternal life, but if one falls off the path whether in sin or loses faith they truly have become Apostates and have lost their salvation. James Arminius is the one in which many have followed of which today is called Arminianism.
With giving the very basics of both these views my desire is to see both of them and share the balance of both sides to help those of you who want simple answers to these issues. I will tell you that I am neither Arminianism nor Calvinism to which they believe in their fullness. There are some things from both views that I see clearly are Biblical and some things from both views that I see have flaws. I will share what I believe the Scriptures clearly and simply teach and allow you to decide and search this out yourselves.
God’s Sovereignty and Man’s Responsibility
Without getting all theological and use all the fancy words I will attempt to keep this as simple as possible. Calvinism teaches that we were chosen before the foundation of the world, which is true. The Bible teaches that we are chosen, quote: “4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him.” (Ephesians 1:4) There is no doubt that the Scripture teaches that we were chosen in Him before the foundation of the world. Here is another Scripture: “11 also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will.” (Ephesians 1:11) The Apostle Paul here has declared eternal truth of what God has done in our lives before we came into existence. I fully concur with the Sovereignty of God and would not dare to go against it. However there is the issue of what Ephesians 1:13 states, “In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation–having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise.” Paul within the same passages writes some very interesting things on man’s responsibility in response to the Gospel. Paul here first says they listened to the message of truth, which is the Gospel. After listening to the Gospel message of truth they then believed which is a very interesting point. The Gospel message was given to them, they listened, and then they believed, and received the Holy Spirit. Man’s part in coming to Christ is to believe the message; there is no doubt about that. The major question is how do we come to Christ? Calvinists say it is God alone that does all the work and that man has no part of receiving Christ. Please pay very close attention to what I am about to share on this important issue. No one comes to God without first the Holy Spirit leading them to Christ and opening them up to receive the Gospel message. Look at the following Scriptures.
“16 “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; 17 that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.” (John 14)
“7 “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. 8 “And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10 and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; 11 and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged. 12 “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. 14 “He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. 15 “All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you.” (John 16)
The Holy Spirit according to Jesus was already with the disciples but was not in them. The disciples before the cross were not spiritually reborn, born again, or simply not Christians yet. The ministry of the Holy Spirit is pointing people to Jesus Christ and them receiving the Gospel message. The Holy Spirit convicts us of our sins and shows us that we truly need Jesus Christ and as so many Scriptures clearly show we accept the message or reject the message. The Holy Spirit glorifies the Lord Jesus and it is through the Holy Spirit that people are moved to come to Christ.
Looking at what Jesus said as a whole shows the big picture, and clinging to certain verses truly does an injustice to the context of the message. For example looking at the Gospel of John in it’s entirety is very wise, but some have clung to a few passages in attempting to prove their case that man has no choice whatsoever in coming to Christ. Certain passages as John 6:44 says, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.” This is true, that is what Jesus clearly has said, however what did Jesus say prior to this? In John 6:28-29 and John 6:40 Jesus says things prior to verse 44 which puts everything in context.
“28 Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent…40 “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.”
Jesus said, “this is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” So for them to work the works of God they are to believe in Jesus Christ the Son of God who has come to give then eternal life, and believe that the Father has sent the Son. The heart of the Father is that everyone that “beholds” and believes in the Son will have eternal life. The word “beholds” can also mean everyone who “acknowledges, considers, and perceives” within themselves that Jesus is the Son of God will have eternal life. Trying to present this as simple as possible there is two issues that are going on at the same time which is the Sovereignty of God and man’s responsibility to receive Christ. Some say they cannot go together and that is a contradiction of terms. Charles Spurgeon made the following observation of that same issue and said:
“The system of truth revealed in the Scriptures is not simply one straight line, but two; and no man will ever get a right view of the gospel until he knows how to look at the two lines at once. For instance, I read in one Book of the Bible, “The Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” Yet I am taught, in another part of the same inspired Word, that “it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.” I see, in one place, God in providence presiding over all, and yet I see, and I cannot help seeing, that man acts as he pleases, and that God has left his actions, in a great measure, to his own free-will. Now, if I were to declare that man was so free to act that there was no control of God over his actions, I should be driven very near to atheism; and if, on the other hand, I should declare that God so over-rules all things that man is not free enough to be responsible, I should be driven at once into Antinomianism or fatalism. That God predestines, and yet that man is responsible, are two facts that few can see clearly. They are believed to be inconsistent and contradictory to each other. If, then, I find taught in one part of the Bible that everything is fore-ordained, that is true; and if I find, in another Scripture, that man is responsible for all his actions, that is true; and it is only my folly that leads me to imagine that these two truths can ever contradict each other. I do not believe they can ever be welded into one upon any earthly anvil, but they certainly shall be one in eternity. They are two lines that are so nearly parallel, that the human mind which pursues them farthest will never discover that they converge, but they do converge, and they will meet somewhere in eternity, close to the throne of God, whence all truth doth spring.” (Charles Spurgeon, Defense of Calvinism)
I really do not need to make to many comments on what Spurgeon has said here. Now I will let the reader know that Charles Spurgeon was a very strong Calvinist and taught against those who say man chooses God without any help from God, which I agree with Spurgeon. It is interesting to see that Spurgeon did acknowledge the responsibility of man to his or her own actions, and what is very interesting is Spurgeon used the words “to his own free will.” Now I know that Spurgeon did not teach what is called “free will” today, but he did acknowledge that we are not robots and that we do have our part in making decisions in life. Spurgeon also said that the two lines go together, God’s providence and man’s actions. Jesus also made this very clear when talking to Nicodemus in John 3.
“16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17 “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. 18 “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3)
You probably have heard it said, “you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure that out”, or something like that. Well it is true; you do not have to be here in looking at what Jesus so clearly was teaching on the message of believing in Him for eternal life. It is clear here that the message is for the whole world, and anyone who a “whoever.” One of the major things I do not agree with in Calvinism is that they believe God choose a special people and that the message of the Gospel is not for the whole world, but only the elect of God. Jesus came to give His life for the world and if you are one of those who say Jesus is saying here the “world” was in reference to the elect of God you have got serious problems. Number one you are seriously reading into the text, and number two the context of the passage refutes that view, and number three others Scriptures address the world as being mankind in general.
“17 Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. 18 Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5)
“19 For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, 20 and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. 21 And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, 22 yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach.” (Colossians 1)
Jesus Christ when He came into this world (earth), He came to give His life for all of mankind, namely the whole world. Scriptures are to clear that the will of God is that none perish but that all would come to repentance. The sacrifice of Jesus Christ is a bridge of reconciliation for all who put their trust in Him.
“3 This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time.” (1 Timothy 2)
“9 The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3)
“6 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.” (Romans 5)
The teaching that God has called only certain ones to be saved I believe is a very bad message and is anti-Jesus in teachings. Jesus came to give His life for all through His death and resurrection. The Scriptures declare that we have been chosen before the foundation of the world, but on what basis? One point I wish to make very clear is that the Scriptures nowhere state that God has created and chosen certain people to go to hell and the lake of fire for all eternity. The late Dr. Walter Martin when asked about this topic said very clearly, “there is no doubt that God has chosen us…and in the Scriptures there is no passage that states God has chosen some to go to hell without them having any decision on their part.” Dr. Walter Martin is right; nowhere does any Scripture say that man was created to go to hell or the lake of fire without them having any rational decision in the matter. To say such a thing makes God a monster, and the God of the Bible is a holy, just and loving God. The message of the Bible from the beginning to the end is that He is fair, just and desires people to come to know Him. Calvinism may not directly say this but in essence to say that God has chosen a certain people to be saved and that man has no decision to make on their part is to say that God has chosen certain people to go to hell and the lake of fire for all eternity, and that is not the God of the Bible.
I will share a simply analogy that I believe has a lot of Biblical truth to that pertains to God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility. Say you are getting married, and you are preparing all the different events before the wedding day comes, and you invite 100 people to come to your wedding. During that time with all the things that are going on, the invitations have been sent out, and those with whom you have desired to come know about the event before it comes, and these people were in your mind to come to the wedding before they even knew you invited them to come. When the wedding day comes only 38 of them showed up that day for your wedding. What happened? You invited 100 people, but only 38 showed up? For whatever reasons the other 62 did not make it. You did not force them to not come because you invited them, and for whatever reason they did not come. However 38 of them did make, and they rejoiced at your wedding. The point of this analogy is simply this that 100 were called, but only 38 showed up. All of the 100 could of been there, but only the 38 made it, and they would be by Biblical definition and comparison the chosen, the elect. God calls out to all people, but not all come to Him. The Holy Spirit is convicting the world (John 16) and yet not all receive that message. God is inviting all to come to Christ, for that is the ministry of the Holy Spirit, but not all receive that message. God calls all people, but only a few respond to the call, and they are the elect of God, not because they are special, but because they have come to know God personally and have become a part of the family of God, and therefore they are the elect of God.
God calls the things that are not as though they are, that is prophecy. In many places God said this would happen, and yet man still had the responsibility in what transpired. The Bible says in Romans 8 some very important truth’s to know.
“28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.” (Romans 8)
Looking at what has been shared and seeing these verses makes it truly clear on the issue of God’s Sovereignty. It says those whom He foreknew He also predestined which is very important. God who knows all things in advance and He is bigger than the wedding planner. God knows exactly who is and who is not going to come to know Him, and therefore knowing these things we can say these are predestined because He knows exactly who is going to come to Him and therefore He brings forth things in their (our) lives that bring glory and honor to Him. Some argue on the word “foreknow” but as said before you do not have to be a rocket scientist to see the simplicity of what is being said here. God knew before time began who would come to Him and who would not, and worked all things together for the good and His purposes.
Now with Arminianism on the things that I have already written about which in I agree with the views of Arminianism on being able to accept the Lord Jesus Christ without being forced to or having no decision about it. Arminianism teaches that God speaks to all of us and that those who respond to the Lord truly are of the Elect. I believe in this area Arminianism is definitely Biblical because the Scriptures are very clear that God is the one who draws us and we have the responsibility to receive Jesus or reject Jesus. The area that I have disagreement with Arminianism is the issues of Eternal Security in Christ Jesus, whereas Arminians teach that a believer in Christ can lose their salvation where Calvinists teach that those who are truly in Christ Jesus are secure not based upon their on works but the works of Christ.
Eternal Security in Christ is Biblical, yes or no?
Making this as simple as possible I will quickly state what Calvinism and Arminianism teaches on this issue and then give our views. Calvinism simply teaches that when a person is in Christ Jesus they are sealed in Christ through the Holy Spirit. Calvinism teaches that Christians will stumble, sin at times, but they do not teach licentiousness, and believe that those who are in Christ are truly saved not based upon efforts but upon the mercy and grace of the work of the cross and Christ’s atonement and all who trust in that. Arminianism on the contrast teaches that you are not assured of your salvation in Christ, and that you cannot say that you are eternally secure because you can lose your salvation. There are some Arminians who teach a very legalistic view that if you sin once you have to be saved over and over and over again, and there are those who teach what is called the “abide in Jesus” doctrine meaning that as long as you are living a holy life though you may stumble you still are in Christ. There is much more that could be stated but these are the brief views of both Calvinism and Arminianism, and I will share where we stand Biblically on these issues.
In our “Eternal Life In Christ” article in our Salvation section clearly states our views on the security of the believer and welcome those of you to read through it. On this I will briefly state that we believe the Scriptures clearly teach that those who are in Christ are in Christ forever for which Jesus said those who believe in Him “have eternal life.” Eternal life means eternal life, and as said before you do not have to be a rocket scientist on these issues. In many places the Word teaches that we are sealed in the Lord through the Holy Spirit, that God will never leave us nor forsake us, that we are protected by the power of God, that we will never be snatched out of His hands, that we have eternal life in Him, and many more things. The issue with those who believe in eternal security is “was that person truly born again when he or she fell away?” Many come back and say that person was a supposed Christian for 30 years and then turned on Christ and rejects Him now, is that person saved? As the Scripture teaches there will be many who claim to be Christians and truly are not, many who worked side by side with other Christians and were never Christians at all even though they may appeared that way. There are many who claim to be Christians today who are in Cults and false religions and yet do not know the Lord Jesus Christ and unless they come to know the Biblical Jesus they will die in their sins. Here are some Scriptures that show the security of the believer and that there are those who claim to be Christians and are not, and there were those who claimed to be Christians at one time and left it were truly never Christians in the first place.
Eternal Security Scriptures
“27 “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28 and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. 29 ” 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.” (John 10)
“13 In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation–having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.” (Ephesians 1)
“6 For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1)
“3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Peter 1)
Scriptures That Prove All Are Not Christians Because They Claim To Be
“21 “Not everyone who says to Me, `Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 “Many will say to Me on that day, `Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 “And then I will declare to them, `I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.'” (Matthew 7)
“13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds.” (2 Corinthians 11)
“28 “Be on guard for yourselves and for 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. 29 “I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.” (Acts 20)
“18 Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us.” (1 John 2)
These Scriptures are clear and simple to see. Making one brief point so there is no confusion or misunderstanding we do not believe Christians are to live in sin and practice sin in their lives, but are to live daily for Christ Jesus. We simply believe is that those who are truly of Christ will fall, but they will get back up and turn from those ways, and the Lord will be there with them always as a loving Father would be. Just a child makes mistakes, and even at times is rebellious, that child is still theirs. God who is bigger than us, and clearly states that He disciplines us as a loving Father just a father does his own child, He to loves us and is always with us. (Hebrews 12&13)
We believe there is much truth on both sides of Calvinism and Arminianism, and both are not 100% correct on what they believe. We pray that those of you out there were encouraged in your Christian faith, and exhorted through the Scriptures. If you have questions and comments please let us know and we will try to give further clarification. May you be blessed and grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.
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