|Vol. 16 No. 4 April 2014||
Millions of people around the globe have been and continue to be influenced by the theological slant of a 16th century reformer named John Calvin. Calvin, influenced by such notables as Augustine, Ulrich Zwingli and Martin Luther, presented views of God and the salvation of man in his Institutes of the Christian Religion.
If Calvinism was congruent, or equal to “the Doctrine of Christ,” then we would be discussing Christ and his doctrine, and we may never have heard of the term “Calvinism.” Unfortunately, all too many have bought the assumption that to speak of Calvinism is the same as speaking of Christ and His doctrine. Yet, they are not the same.
All men must determine who they are going to follow. Why is there the human tendency for us to either worship or follow after the doctrines of uninspired, mere mortal men? True Christians must follow none other than Jesus Christ, allowing His Word to abide in us. Will we hear Calvin, Krishna or Christ? God says, “Hear my Son” (cf., Matthew 17:5; Hebrews 1:2).
Calvinism has its own distinct way of viewing God. With an improper view of God’s sovereignty, Calvin took it to the extreme by claiming that God makes all the choices and is responsible for everything that happens.
Calvin says before the foundation of the world, God chose specific individuals (he foreknew and foreordained) to be among the “elect.” On the other hand, those specific individuals he did not predestine to be among the elect are styled the “non-elect” and are void of any hope of eternal life and that Jesus’ blood was not even shed for them.
The doctrine of Christ, however, paints a far better picture for everyone concerned. For instance, Jesus says the Gospel is for all men wherever they are found (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16).
The apostle Peter, having received the baptismal measure of the Holy Spirit, preached the glad tidings to both Jews and Gentiles. To Cornelius and household he proclaimed, “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him” (Acts 10:34-35). Who does Peter say can be pleasing to God?
God has reached out to all of humanity in sending Jesus Christ to be the Savior of the world. “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men…" (Titus 2:11; John 3:16).
Unfortunately, not all will be saved because of unbelief or unwillingness to conform their lives to the image of God’s only begotten Son. Such is the example of men and women to whom Paul and Barnabas offered the gift of heaven in Antioch of Pisidia: “It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles" (Acts 13:46). Who rejected whom? Who judged whom unworthy of life?
Since the beginning, God has given men a choice. Those of Antioch exercised their freedom of choice by rejecting the Savior of the world. You and I have the same choice, and God does not make it for us. Will you follow Calvin to the grave, or Christ unto life in heaven?
The question is, “Why?” The answer is, “Love.”
Why should I listen to God? Why should I obey the Gospel? Why should I teach others about Jesus? Why should I stand up firmly for what is right? Why should I be willing to face possible persecution or even death? The ultimate answer is, indeed, “love.”
Love for God
Our major motivation for doing right should be our love for God. Our love and allegiance to God will affect everything we do. Our love for God should make us want to avoid sin. Our love for God is reciprocal (1 John 4:19); it is a returning of love to the One who is the epitome of love (John 3:16).
Love for His Son
Jesus came and willingly gave Himself up for us. He went as far as to die on that horrible instrument of death, the cross (Hebrews 12:1-4). His act of leaving His heavenly home and coming to earth was an act of love. His time spent learning all that we have to go through was motivated by His love for us. That kind of love demands that we return it in kind.
Love for His Word
The 119th Psalm is a beautiful “love song” to the Word of God. We have some letters at home that were written by my wife’s mother. She passed away over 22 years ago. Those letters are precious to us because of who the author is. How much more should we love the writings that are sent from the very halls of heaven through Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit and inspired men to guide our footsteps and to direct us to a home with God? They are our blueprint, guide and “owner’s manual” on how to live the best life and have the greatest reward.
Love for His Church
The church is the precious body of the saved. We should love the church – universal and the local congregation, but ultimately we love the church by loving the individuals who are the church. Love for our brothers and sisters in Christ could not be any more powerfully taught than it is in the Book of 1 John. Ultimately, John says that if we claim to love God, but do not love our brethren, then we are liars. Love for the church and for our brethren demands that we stand up for the truth and fight errors that would take the church and turn it into something totally different. While we must adamantly oppose false teachers, we must do so in a spirit of love and concern for them and those who they might affect by their error.
Love for the Lost
The key to true evangelism is not the wish to win debates with others; it is the overwhelming desire to bring them to Jesus because we want them to be saved. We understand that we are not helping someone if we do not tell them the truth. We are not helping someone, either, when we haughtily beat them on the head, instead of lovingly trying to present God’s Word. We will not be able, sadly, to convert all of those that we love and treat appropriately. Sometimes all the kindness in the world does not keep the message from offending someone, and that we cannot change. Yet, not one person should be driven away from Christ because we have an unloving and unkind manner of telling the truth.
Love for Ourselves
Ultimately, we must have enough love for ourselves that we will bring ourselves into subjection to God, because that is the only thing that is truly real and that really matters in the end. Our love for God, Christ, His word, the church and the lost will grow in us when we learn to submit ourselves to God and to subjugate our will to His. That submission is the ultimate act of loving ourselves, because it will take us home to heaven if we stay faithful. This true love for self will make us able to face life as it really is and to endure troubles, pains, despair and even persecution. Many of our “Whys” can be answered by the concept of love – true, biblical, unadulterated love.