by Jeffrey W. Hamilton
Text: Matthew 23:34-39
I. John Calvin and his followers believe that God is so totally sovereign in His will that no one can change His creation. He is all powerful and irresistible
A. The Westminster Confession of Faith states, “God from all eternity, did ... unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass.” [Westminster Confession of Faith, 3.1]
B. This extends to each individual and the apparent choices that he makes.
C. There are “those who attribute ... a government (to God) which consists in giving an impulse and general movement to the machine of the globe and each of its parts, but does not specially direct the action of every creature. It is impossible, however, to tolerate this error. For, according to its abettors, there is nothing in this providence, which they call universal, to prevent all the creatures from being moved contingently, or to prevent man from turning himself in this direction or that, according to the mere freedom of his own will.” [John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 1, Christian Classics Ethereal Library].
D. It is the belief that each person has an unchangeable destiny. Everything is fixed, from who we marry to when we die. Even the words we speak, we are told are predetermined.
E. As a result, our salvation or condemnation is predetermined by God and we are powerless to change it. God has chosen a certain number of people before they ever existed and saved them, regardless of how they might live their lives – though they will argue that they cannot help but live a proper life.
II. Can the concept of grace be perverted?
A. Peter, with the help of Silvanus, wrote about the true grace of God - I Peter 5:12
1. If there is a true grace, then it implies there are false views of grace.
2. Peter urges his readers to stand firm in the true grace. In other words, don’t be mislead by false teachings concerning God’s grace.
3. The very fact that Peter urges people to stand firm, indicates that each reader had a choice and some might make the wrong choice. This alone contradicts what Calvin believed and taught.
B. Jude also left a warning - Jude 4
1. Some might latch on to the phrase “who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation” and exclaim, see God already decided these people would not be saved.
2. But notice that these are people who turned God’s grace into an license to sin, even to the point of denying Christ.
3. Who decided to corrupt the idea of grace? Why they did! But that is not God. God does not fight against himself. These people were condemned for their choices, which God long ago said would lead to hell.
C. A part of the problem is that those who advocate irresistible grace claim that a person’s salvation cannot be lost. You have no choice in being saved. Thus, you have people claiming:
1. “All true believers endure to the end. Those whom God has accepted in Christ, and sanctified by His Spirit, will never fall away from the State of grace, but shall persevere to the end. Believers may fall into sin through neglect and temptation, whereby they grieve the Spirit, impair their graces and comforts, bring reproach on the cause of Christ, and temporal judgments on themselves, yet they shall be kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation” [V. God’s Power of Grace—from a statement adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention May 9, 1963].
2. Sam Morris, a Baptist preacher in Stamford, Texas wrote a little tract explaining that all the sins one may commit cannot harm the soul or cause the person to be lost.“We take the position that a Christian's sins do not damn his soul. The way a Christian lives, what he says, his character, his conduct, or his attitude toward other people have nothing whatever to do with the salvation of his soul... All the prayers a man may pray, all the Bibles he may read, all the churches he may belong to, all the services he may attend, all the sermons he may practice, all the debts he may pay, all the ordinances he may observe, all the laws he may keep, all the benevolent acts he may per-form will not make his soul one whit safer; and all the sins he may commit from idolatry to murder will not make his soul in any more danger... The way a man lives has nothing whatever to do with the salvation of his soul... The way I live has nothing whatsoever to do with the salvation of my soul" [Do a Christian’s Sins Damn His Soul?].
D. Notice that this turns what is called “grace” into a license to sin, just as Jude warned?
E. For that matter, why warn people against sin when it supposedly makes no difference?
III. The consequence of the teaching of irresistible grace is that people have no free will.
A. If people don’t make choices in their life, then they are not responsible.
B. But notice what Jesus said of the Jews in his lifetime - Matthew 23:37
1. The Father and the Son want people saved. God sent prophets to teach and warn people, but they were killed.
2. Jesus wanted to protect the Jews, but the Jews were unwilling.
3. Sounds like free will to me. They made choices that went against what God desired for them.
C. If I chain my dog to a tree and tell him to stay, it would be silly to say that my dog is obedient when he stays by the tree. He had no choice in the matter.
1. If I chain my dog to a tree and then call him to come, it would be unfair to say that my dog was disobedient because he stayed by the tree. He had no choice in the matter.
D. Calvin’s teaching is that men are like the chained dog. They are forced to obey or disobey, even though they have no control over their actions; yet, Calvin claims men are still responsible for those actions and they will be rewarded or punished accordingly. That is not justice!
IV. To those following Calvin’s teachings, men cannot do anything to effect their salvation.
A. A common phrase is that we are “saved by grace through faith.”
B. Actually it is a portion of Ephesians 2:8-9.
1. People are saved by grace through faith. But it doesn’t mean there is no effort on their part. As Paul said in Ephesians 2:9, they cannot determine works of their own whereby they could glory in their efforts. But there are still works that God determined that His followers must do - Ephesians 2:10.
2. You know, when Paul preached in Ephesus, the people did something - Acts 19:1-5
C. Paul also emphasized this point in Romans 5:1-2.
1. These Christians had access to the grace of God through faith.
2. These Christians also were baptized - Romans 6:3-4
3. Faith doesn’t stand alone. It is accompanied by works - Romans 16:26
4. James makes the same point - James 2:14,17,26
D. Yet, faith isn’t something that is given to you. It is something you choose - Hebrews 11:6
1. Notice that it is your choice. God didn’t decide whether you will have faith, you have to decide.
V. God wants everyone saved - II Peter 3:9
A. But He will not force anyone to be saved.
B. We are expected to volunteer to follow God because of our faith in God - Psalms 110:3
C. There is no reason to be lost - Ezekiel 18:30-32
D. What choice are you making?