by: Dr. Bob Gray Sr.
One of the most divisive doctrinal invasions on the scene today is the debate over John Calvin and his theology. It seems every generation has to contemplate and parley this issue. It is kept alive where intellectualism has become the god of our so-called higher institutions. The truth is, God is more concerned about the simplicity in Christ and common man hearing Him gladly.
Calvinism is based on the theological beliefs and teaching of John Calvin (1509-1564), a leader of the Reformation period. The truth is, Calvin never thought of himself as a theologian; however, many others did. Augustine first taught his extreme doctrines, and then for about a thousand years no one found them in the Bible until Calvin developed such a theology.
Salvation by grace, eternal salvation, without works, is a Bible doctrine. I believe John Calvin’s doctrine is a perversion by proud intellectuals who thus may try to excuse themselves from any spiritual accountability of not only going soul winning, but actually leading souls to Christ for salvation.
Charles Hadden Spurgeon was a Calvinist and made it clear he was so; however, he did not believe all the doctrines of Calvin. If those teachings of Calvin were emphasized as little as Spurgeon emphasized them, then modern day Calvinist could not use his name. If today those who call themselves Calvinists worked as unceasingly to win souls as did Spurgeon, they themselves would not speak of Calvinism as much.
TRENDS INFLUENCE YOUTH
Influence is really the key thought. The Apostle Paul asked the folks at the church of Galatia this question, “Who hath betwitched you?” It was not “What hath bewitched you” but “who.” Those you run with tell others much about “who” you are, based on “who” they are.
Peer pressure never goes away, and it becomes even more of a danger in days of youth. Insecurity in Christ can lead the best of us to allow influences in that normally we would never consider. I am amazed at how we will sacrifice so much for so little. Big is not always better! John was alone on the isle of Patmos as far as the world was concerned, but not as far as God was concerned; he and God made a majority.
The amazing thing is when big occurs within the perimeters of the Word of God, then the things of God are not sacrificed on the altar of bigness. I would rather preach to 100 than 10. Likewise, I would rather teach and preach to a 1,000 than a 100; however, the temptation to take a short cut is a real temptation. It no longer becomes the cause of Christ, but it becomes the cause of self. My friend, there is such a thing as spiritual greed.
The danger is when we turn our spiritual backs on holiness, Holy Scriptures (KJV), soul winning, doctrinal purity, godly music, separation from the world, etc., in search of bigness. It is a wonderful thing to witness and be apart of a great work when God does it.
Whatever the latest is may not be the best there is. We are to lift man up to God’s status nor bring God down to man. I am fearful of some of our young leaders who name drop Evangelicals names in their books and reject great men like Jack Hyles and other giants of the faith. A big work is not always a great work. Bill Hybles garnered a great crowd, but his own in-house study revealed he did not produce great Christians.
Jack Hyles had not only a great work, but he did it with God, not without God. Lee Roberson, Lester Roloff, Dallas Billington, Jack Hudson, Curtis Hutson and others had great works, but they also did it with God’s methods not without God’s methods.
Simplicity in Christ allows God to do it. When some of these young leaders re-word Rick Warren and deliver him deceitfully to our young men in their conferences, it is disgraceful and dangerous. This road leads to spiritual disaster. It scares me for the next generation.
WHY FOLLOW SPURGEON?
He was an amazing preacher, an evangelist, and some think he was the greatest preacher since the Apostle Paul; however, when he was wrong he was wrong. He was a man, and at his best he was still a man. He, for example, said he did not know enough about the return of Jesus Christ to teach and preach on it. No man is perfect as long as they are dwelling in flesh.
It would be foolish for us to follow Spurgeon in whatever false doctrine of Calvinism he believed, as it would be to follow him in smoking cigars. He did realize the mistake of smoking a little while before he died, but it was too late for those who were influenced by him. Many have testified that Spurgeon recognized the errors of Calvinism before he went to Heaven, but it was too late for those who were influenced by him.
The danger is we have the potential of losing our soul winning emphasis because of influence. If the independent Baptist church movement is not about soul winning, then who is going to carry the banner to the next generation? We are a generation away from losing the push for winning souls. Calvinism becomes nothing more than an excuse to NOT go soul winning and to stroke the pride of the intellect.
CALVINISM IS A DISTRACTION
Calvinists usually outline their doctrinal position with the letters TULIP:
T for Total depravity of the sinner
U for Unconditional Election
L for limited Atonement
I for Irresistible Grace
P for Perseverance of the saints
TOTALLY DEPRAVED AND THUS INCAPABLE OF REPENTANCE
The doctrine that all are sinful being incapable of saving themselves or doing good without God’s help is certainly a truism; however, it is certainly absolutely NOT true that some never could repent or that God leaves them intentionally without light or unable to be called.
Acts 17:30, “God…now commandeth all men every where to repent.”
Acts 11:18, “Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.”
John 12:32, 33, “And I, if I be lifted from the earth, will draw all men unto me. This he said, signifying what death he should die.”
Romans 1:18-21, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.”
Psalm 19:1-4, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun.”
Romans 2:11-16, “For there is no respect of persons with God. For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law; (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified. For when the Gentiles, which have not the law do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another,) in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.”
Romans 1:16, “the gospel of Christ…is the power of God unto salvation”
Titus 2:11, “The grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men.”
Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”
It is sad when some make election a whim of God whereby he saves some, compels them to be saved, and damns the rest whom He has decided He does not wish to save. No, election is not “unconditional.”
Now comes the doctrine of election! God elected me to be in the ministry. God elected my son to be my pastor. Election is when you were saved, first, God commanded you to be baptized, join a local church, tithe and give offerings and go soul winning; second, His election is to put you into an area of ministry to others. In essence, election has to do with you working for God. No one is elected for Heaven or elected for Hell. That is as much heresy as a bloodless religion is or a non-inspired Bible is!
When God saved me at age eleven at 132 E. Michigan Ave., Galesburg, Michigan in February of 1957 He cleared my record in Heaven, declared me justified or innocent, appeased Himself, court adjourned, He gave me a new creature, He gave me the Holy Spirit, He prepared a glorified body for me in Heaven, gave me an opportunity to fellowship with Him, preserved me for Heaven, and elected me to be in the ministry.
- Israel was called an elect nation
In Romans chapters 9, 10 and 11, you find that Israel was not chosen for salvation, but was chosen by God to do a unique work in the world. She was chosen by God to give us the Scriptures, give us the Messiah and to give us the local New Testament church. In Matthew chapter 10, all of the members of the first Baptist church of Jerusalem were all Jews. Israel was chosen by God to present the Gospel to the world.
When God elected Israel to do all of that He was saying, I need a nation to give the Scriptures to, the Messiah to, the local New Testament church to, and the Gospel to. God is not saying I have chosen Israel to go to Heaven and all the other nations to go to Hell. No, God elected Israel to do a particular work for Him on Earth.
- A local New Testament church is called elect
2 John 1:1, “The elder unto the elect lady…” The local New Testament church is called “…the elect lady…” Does that mean that everybody who’s a member of Longview Baptist Temple of Longview, Texas, is elected to go to Heaven? Oh, no! Election is not about going to Heaven or Hell in the Scriptures. The local church has been elected to be the instrument of the propagation of the Gospel in the Ark-La-Tex area.
Israel was elected for a particular work for God on Earth. Longview Baptist Temple and every other local New Testament church is elected to spread the Gospel on Earth. Election is when Dr. Bob Gray II was saved God said, “I’m going to elect Dr. Gray II to be the pastor of the Longview Baptist Temple of Longview, Texas.” At salvation God elected you to do what you are doing for Him.
Here is the question, your calling is to be a soul winner, are you doing it? Your election is to do a specific work for God on Earth at this very moment, are you doing it?
Israel was an elect nation. Elected to Heaven or Hell? No! Elected to give the world the Saviour, Scriptures, Gospel and New Testament. The local New Testament church is the “elect lady.” Elected to Heaven or Hell? No! Elected to give the Gospel to every human being on Earth for God! This was not given to “Youth For Christ,” “Child Evangelism,” “Gideon’s,” “Campus Crusade,” “Bill Bright Ministries,” “The 700 Club,” or any Para-church organization. God has elected the local New Testament church, not to Heaven or Hell, but to spread the Gospel to “every creature.”
- The Apostles are called His elect
Does this mean that the Apostles are the only ones going to Heaven? No, thousands were saved and baptized during their day. Election cannot be referring to going to Heaven or Hell. The Apostles were the first ones chosen for a specific job on Earth for God. They were chosen in a unique way to lead in spreading the Gospel to the world. Election is being chosen for leadership to spread the Gospel around the globe to every nation.
- Paul the Apostle called God’s elect
Titus 1:1, “Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness;” Paul calls himself a servant and an apostle with both being “according to the faith of God’s elect.” He is saying God elected him or chose him to be a servant and an apostle. Was Paul elected for Heaven? No! Paul elected to get saved and then God elected Paul to be a servant and an apostle.
2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”Our God does not want any one to go to Hell! Our God does not elect people to Heaven or Hell. He elects people to do a work on Earth for Him.
- Elect Angels
1 Timothy 5:21, “I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels…” Are angels born again? No! Thus, this cannot be dealing with Heaven or Hell. Angels cannot be saved. What are angels? Messengers! To what are they elected? To be messengers!
Paul was elected to be an apostle to the Gentiles. He took the Gospel to the western world. The Jewish nation was an elect nation to give us the Messiah, the Scriptures, the Gospel and the local New Testament church. The local New Testament church is the elect body to spread the Gospel to the world. The angels have been elected as special messengers to help us spread the Gospel for God.
Election is a Sovereign act of God to do a specific work to spread the Gospel to the world for God. If God makes an act based on what you do, then that is not a Sovereign decision by God. God cannot elect you to do something or be something you have already chosen. I did not choose to be a preacher and neither did any one else who is in the ministry.
All are commanded and called to be soul winners, but only a few are chosen to be the pastor, youth pastor, bus director, etc. Just before Matthew 20:16, is the parable of Jesus sending forth labourers in to the vineyard. In dealing with those labourers He said, “few are chosen.” Thus, this doctrine of election has nothing to do with who goes to Heaven and who goes to Hell, but who works or who labors in a particular field.
John 15:16, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.” God does not want you to be barren spiritually, but spiritually fruitful. Jesus is saying that being “chosen” relates to the work in the vineyard. Every context of the word “elect” in the Scriptures has to do with work. God has elected you not to be a lazy hound dog. All of us are called to be a soul winner, but some are elected to be the principal, youth pastor, mission’s director, college president, or pastor, etc.
At salvation God took away our sins, decided not to record any future sins, put Jesus’ righteousness on our record, declared us justified, appeased Himself by Himself, declared the case closed with the court adjourned, set me aside for Heaven in the future, regenerated us, gave us a new creature, sent the Holy Spirit into us to convert us, reserved a new body in Heaven for him, made it possible for us to fellowship with God, preserved us by sealing us with the Holy Spirit, and then election is God giving us a specific work to do for Him.
This term in actuality means “limited love” or “limited grace” and is a slander against God Almighty. This doctrine is really the heart of Calvinism. They are saying that Jesus Christ did not die for ALL men. They are asserting that God made no provision for the unregenerate so they could have a hope of Heaven. They are in essence claiming that God did not love all men enough to allow Christ to die for ALL. They are declaring that grace is limited so it is “finite” instead of being “infinite.”
John 3:16, “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son” He gave his Son for “whosoever” could believe if he chose to do so. No limited atonement in this verse.
John 1:29, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” It is obvious here that He taketh away the sin of the WORLD.
John 2:2, “And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for our’s only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” No limited atonement here.
Romans 5:20, “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” The grace of God is infinite, much more than for those who will be saved, even much more than for all the sins of all the people in the world. Romans 5:20 creates no limit on the atonement.
1 Timothy 4:10, “…the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe.”
Colossians 1:20, “…having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself, by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.” This does not say a thing about accepting Christ, but it does speak of atonement for ALL and a peace treaty to bring to a climax the war between God and sinners. No limit on atonement here!
GOD’S GRACE IS NOT IRRESISTIBLE
The teaching here is that all who elected to be saved will be saved and they cannot resist this special limited grace. Those will be saved when God calls. If this be true, then it only makes sense on the opposite side of the coin that…
- Those not elected are irresistibly damned and cannot be saved.
- Since God works irresistibly to save or damn, Christians cannot affect it.
- Since it is irresistible, Christians have no responsibility or burden.
2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”
1 Timothy 2:1, 3, 4, “all men,” “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, Who will have ALL MEN to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” Thus it is clear that God’s grace can be resisted.
Matthew 23:37, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not.” Jesus is saying I would and ye would not! Thus, His grace was and could and would be rejected. It was not irresistible!
Proverbs 1:24, 25, “Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; But ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof.” “…did not choose the fear of the Lord.”
Galatians 2:21, “I do not frustrate the grace of God?” The church at Galatia were teaching salvation by the law and frustrating the grace of God.
Genesis 6:3, “My spirit shall not always strive with man.”
THE SAINTS FINALLY PERSEVERE
The “P” in TULIP is used for PERSEVERANCE of the saints. If Calvin meant that Christians receive salvation by works, then this is foreign to God’s Word. Christians do not always do right for they are trapped in their flesh. Our righteousness is the righteousness of Christ who bore our sins in His flesh. He paid for all of our sins and gives eternal life freely to those who choose Christ.
This should be called “preservation” not “perseverance.” The eternal security of the believer is a Bible doctrine.
John 5:24, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed form death unto life.”
John 10:27-29, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them 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.”
2 Timothy 1:12, “…for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.”
Calvinism is an unscriptural false doctrine that tends to flourish in intellectual pride and where there is disobedience to the command to win souls to Christ. It is Satan’s attempt to kill and murder concern or compassion for souls.
We need to be wary of current Bible colleges that they do not become a modern Mecca for independent Baptists, allowing the seeds of Calvinism to be taught. It is the local church that is the institution promised perpetuity by Jesus Christ and not colleges. My desire is for our young people to have their educational toolbox filled with supplemented truths and not substituted truths at Bible college.
The challenge is to be wise enough and spiritual enough to be extremely careful about who and what we allow to influence us. I prefer the giants of the faith of old and not so much those who know how to grow a crowd, but not grow Christians.
Dr. Bob Gray Sr.