This is part two of our series studying the differences between Calvinism and Arminianism. Please note that this is only a brief overview of a vast topic. A thorough discussion of this topic can (and often has) filled many books. At the conclusion of the series I will provide a list of helpful resources should you wish to pursue this study further.
Today we turn our attention to the “five points of Calvinism.”
John Calvin (1509 – 1564) was born in France, but lived most of his life in Geneva Switzerland. Though a contemporary of Martin Luther, he was a generation removed and never met him. Calvin, like Luther, formed theology that was based on an understanding of the errors of Roman Catholicism, specifically the belief in a works-based salvation. Calvin’s “Institutes of the Christian Religion,” which laid the foundation for his system of theology, were first published in 1536.
A proper understanding of Calvinism is fully dependant on understanding Calvin’s view of man’s depravity. He taught that man, who once enjoyed perfect fellowship and communion with God, had his very nature changed through the fall into sin. This not only destroyed the communion between God and man, but also removed the ability of man to have communion with God. Man’s nature became so wholly corrupt as to leave him unable to choose against his nature. A fallen man is able to choose to do what he wants, but is unable to want God. There is a misconception that Calvinists do not believe in human free will, but this is not true. Calvinism teaches that free will exists, but is bound by a man’s nature. Man is a slave not to God, but to his own nature. Because man does not want God, he can never choose Him. Only God, in His Sovereign free will, can change man’s nature and make him capable of repentance.
The five points of Calvinism are often summarized in the acronym T.U.L.I.P. which stands for Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and Perseverance of the Saints. We will now turn to a brief discussion of each of those points. For each I have provided the Bible passages from which they are drawn. I have added a brief comment to each which explains how that passage provides proof.
Man’s will is in complete bondage to his nature. Man is free to choose according to the way his nature dictates, but his nature is so wholly corrupt that he could never choose for good. He is free to choose, but he cannot contradict his nature. With a sinful nature it is impossible to take an action that would be anything other than sinful and rebellious. It is impossible to choose a righteous or pleasing work capable of pleasing a holy God. Similarly God is able to choose according to His free will, but cannot contradict his nature, which is perfect. Therefore God could never take an action that was anything but perfect and holy.
Genesis 6:5 – God saw that the intent of every heart was only continual evil.
Genesis 8:21 – The intent of every heart is evil from its youth.
Isaiah 64:6-7 – There is no one who calls on God’s name or stirs himself to take hold of God.
Jeremiah 17:9 – The heart is deceitful and desperately wicked.
John 3:19 – Men loved darkness rather than light because their hearts are evil.
Romans 3:10-18 – There is none righteous. There is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside.
Romans 8:8 – Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
1 Corinthians 2:14 – The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God and cannot know them because they are spiritually discerned.
Ephesians 2:1-3 – God made us alive when we were dead in our sin. We once walked in sin and were children of wrath.
2 Timothy 2:25,26 – We have been taken captive by the devil to do his will and if we are granted repentance God will bring us to our senses and help us escape.
God’s election is entirely unconditional and He makes the ultimate choice for salvation. God foreknows who will be His elect and this is based on His decree, plan and purpose. He chooses people for His good pleasure and in His will. God brings His chosen people, through the Spirit, to a willing acceptance of Christ. His choice has nothing to do with man’s free will. God the Father chooses people for reasons we do not know or understand. God did not see that these people would make a choice for Him and choose them on that basis.
Matthew 11:27 – No one knows the Father except the Son and the ones to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him.
Matthew 13:11 – To some it has been given to know God, but to others it has not.
Matthew 15:13 – God is the one who does the planting.
Matthew 20:23 – God has ordained who will sit at His right and His left.
Mark 13:20 – God chose the elect.
Luke 10:21,22 – God chooses to whom He will reveal the plan of salvation based on what seems good in His sight.
Luke 12:32 – It is God’s pleasure to give some the kingdom.
Luke 13:24 – Some seek but may not enter.
John 5:21 – The Son gives life to whom He will.
John 6:44 – No one can come to the Son except those who are first drawn by the Father.
John 6:65 – No one can come to the Son unless it has been granted by the Father.
John 8:43-47 – The children of the devil cannot understand Christ’s teaching.
John 10:26-30 – Christ’s sheep know His voice and thus follow Him. Those who are not His sheep cannot follow Him.
John 12:37-40 – The people were kept from believing in order to fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy.
John 13:18 – I know whom I have chosen. Christ did not choose Judas.
John 15:16 – You did not choose Me, but I chose you.
John 17:6 – Some were given to Christ by the Father for eternal life.
Acts 13:48 – As many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.
Romans 8:28-30 – Those who were predestined were called, justified and glorified.
Romans 9:11-13 – God chose Jacob before his birth, not based on his works.
Galatians 1:15 – Paul was set apart by God from his mother’s womb.
1 Corinthians 1:26-29 – Those who believe are first called.
Ephesians 1:3-5 – He chose us before the foundation of the world, having predestined us to adoption according to the good pleasure of His will.
Ephesians 1:11 – We have been predestined according to the purpose of His will to receive an inheritance.
Ephesians 2:4-7 – God made us alive while we were still dead.
Colossians 1:26, 27 – God willed to make Christ known to the saints.
Colossians 3:12 – As the elect of God.
1 Thessalonians 1:4 – Knowing your election by God.
2 Thessalonians 13,14 – From the beginning God chose some for salvation.
2 Timothy 1:9 – God has saved us and called us according to His own purpose.
Hebrews 9:15 – Those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.
1 Peter 1:1,2 – Elected according to God’s foreknowledge.
1 Peter 2:7,8 – Some have been predestined to hell.
Jude 4 – Some were predestined for condemnation.
Christ took the sins of the elect upon Himself on the cross. He provided a full and effectual (fully adequate) atonement for their sins. He did not provide only the potential for atonement, but actually provided the effectual atonement. His death secured everything necessary for salvation. This includes faith, which the Spirit applies to the lives of the elect. Though Christ’s sacrifice was sufficient for the entire human race, it is only imputed (given) to the elect. Were Christ to sacrifice and die for someone and then that person did not choose to be saved, it would make Christ’s work a failure.
Psalm 34:22 – The Lord redeems the soul of His servants.
Isaiah 53:8 – For the transgressions of His people He was stricken.
Matthew 1:21 – He will save His people from their sins.
Matthew 20:28 – To give His life as a ransom for many (not all).
Mark 14:24 – Christ’s blood is shed for many.
John 10:11 – Christ is the good shepherd and gave His life for the sheep.
John 13:1 – Christ loved His own.
Luke 1:68 – He has visited and redeemed His people.
John 17:9 – Christ prays for those whom the Father has given Him.
Acts 20:28 – Christ purchased the church (the body of believers) with His blood.
Romans 4:24 – It was imputed to those who believe in Christ.
Romans 5:6-8 – Christ demonstrates His love to us (those who believe).
Romans 5:19 – As all fell through Adam, so many will be made righteous.
Ephesians 5:2 – Christ gave Himself for us (the believers).
Ephesians 5:25 – Christ loved the church and gave His life for her.
Hebrews 10:14 – His offering was for those who are being sanctified.
Revelation 5:9 – Christ’s redemption was for some out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation.
There are two ways God calls people to repentance. The first is the outer call which is extended to anyone who hears the gospel. This can be and often is rejected. The second is the internal call which is extended only to the elect and can never be rejected. In our natural state we are spiritually dead and as dead men are incapable of responding to anything. Therefore we must be brought to life before we can respond to God. The Holy Spirit, in cooperation with the electing will of the Father, in the fullness of time, gives the gift of salvation to the elect who are powerless to resist God’s grace. God then bestows to us the faith which Christ secured for us at the cross. Finally the Spirit leads us to cooperate with God and repent. The order of salvation is regeneration, followed by faith and finally repentance. The Spirit’s work of regeneration must precede both faith and repentance lest they be acts of man.
John 6:37-39 – God has given the elect to Christ.
John 6:44 – No one can come unless the Father draws him.
Ephesians 2:1-10 – While we were still dead God made us alive.
Philippians 2:12-13 – God works in us the desire to do good.
John 1:12-13 – We are born not of our own will but of the will of God.
Romans 8:8 – Those who are in the flesh cannot please God (which means regeneration must precede faith and repentance).
Romans 9:19 – We cannot resist God’s will.
1 Corinthians 15:10 – It is only by God’s grace that Paul is a believer.
Perseverance of the Saints
Because God authors and finishes our faith, we cannot fall away from salvation. Having been born again, we cannot be unborn. The elect, then, will persevere in righteousness and will never fall away from God. If someone who once professed Christ no longer appears to, one of two things must be true. Either he is still a believer and has fallen away from following God for a time (though not from salvation), or he was never saved.
Matthew 24:24 – It is not possible to deceive the elect to nullify their salvation. (see also Mark 13:22)
Luke 15:11-32 – The prodigal son falls away for a time, but not permanently.
John 3:36 – He who has God has everlasting life
John 4:14 – Whoever receives the water of Christ will never thirst again.
John 6:39 – It is God’s will that of all He gives Christ, none should perish.
John 10:28 – Jesus gives believers eternal life and they shall never perish.
Romans 8:28-30 – Those whom God calls He also justifies and glorifies.
Romans 11:29 – The calling and gifts of God are irrevocable.
1 Corinthians 1:8 – Christ will confirm us to the end.
Philippians 1:6 – He who has begun a good work in you will complete it.
1 Thessalonians 5:23,24 – God, who calls us, is faithful and will preserve us until Christ comes.
2 Thessalonians 3:4 – Paul has confidence that God will preserve them.
2 Timothy 4:18 – The Lord will preserve me for His heavenly kingdom.
Hebrews 10:14 – By His offering Christ has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.
1 John 2:19 – If they were of us they would have remained with us.
Revelation 3:5 – Names cannot be blotted from the book of life.
Tomorrow we will examine the five points of Arminianism that arose in response to Calvinism.