I’m working on a new sermon for Pearce’s Baptist Church this Sunday called “Is Christ At Home In Your Hearts”. The Text comes from
Ephesians 3:14-17 (KJV) For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16 That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; 17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith …
What is our priority as Christians? The big news from the Southern Baptist Convention seems to be an ongoing argument between Calvinism and non-Calvinism. If you’re not a Calvinist (and I’m not) and not a theologian preacher graduated from Seminary (and I’m not) you probably don’t know what a “Calvinist” is. Rather than go into great detail I’ll see if I can summarize it. Calvinists believe that God has pre-chosen certain people to be saved, and only these chosen people will be saved. Calvinists further believe that Christ only died for these “pre-chosen” or “elect” people. Non-Calvinists believe that God offers salvation freely to everyone, and that Christ died for the whole world.
Let me be clear: I am not a Calvinist. I believe that Jesus Christ died for the whole world. I believe John 3:16 when it states “God so loved the world that He gave His only Begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life”. The Scripture further teaches that Christ died for all (1 Timothy 2:6; Isaiah 53:6), for every man (Hebrews 2:9), for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2), for the ungodly (Romans 5:6), for false teachers (2 Peter 2:1), for many (Matthew 20:28), for Israel (John 11:50-51), for the Church (Ephesians 5:25), and wonderfully for me (Galatians 2:20). I believe that Calvinism misses the mark when it speaks of Christ dying for just the elect, something they call Limited Atonement. I am not a Calvinist. Having said this, however, I must ask …
Why all the fussing between Calvinists and non-Calvinists? Why did the Southern Baptist Convention waste it’s time drafting a “Resolution on Sinner’s Prayer“? Why are we arguing at all?
Though I am not a Calvinist, my favorite preacher – often called the Prince of Preachers – was C.H. Spurgeon. Spurgeon was a Calvinist. I’ve read a number of books written by John Piper – great books that glorify God. Piper is a Calvinist. Other great preachers, teachers, or pastors who were Calvinists were George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, John Gill, James P Boyce, B.H. Carroll, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Donald Barnhouse, BB Warfield, Alexander Maclaren, J. Greshan Machen, John Murray, Francis Schaeffer, G.Campbell Morgan, John Knox, M.R. DeHaan, Charles E. Fuller, and in more modern times D. James Kennedy, and John MacArthur. Non-Calvinists argue that Calvinists are not evangelical nor mission minded, which is untrue. Spurgeon pastored one of the largest Churches in his day, Edwards preached the Gospel during the First Great Awakening, D. James Kennedy founded Evangelism Explosion to teach Gospel Witnessing Techniques to God’s people, John McArthur shares the Gospel through his Grace To You radio and television broadcasts. Paul Washer is an in your face evangelist – and a Calvinist. R.C. Sproul is a Calvinist. Apologist and Preacher Voddie Baucham is Calvinist. Jerry Bridges of the Navigators is Calvinist. Writer and producer of Joni and Friends Joni Eareckson-Tada is Calvinist. Francis Chan is Calvinist – at least, the Bible College he founded is. I could go on and on. If I burned every book from my pastoral library written by Calvinists I daresay I wouldn’t have much left – and neither would my self righteous non-Calvinist brethren.
As Christians – if we are Christians – we have much more to concern us than Calvinism. Romans 14:1 tells us to avoid doubtful disputations – arguing about things for which there is no clear Biblical answer. The Bible teaches predestination and the Bible teaches free will. The Bible teaches that God knows all things, and yet at times God seems to regret certain actions He took (Genesis 6:6). There are many things in the Bible that I cannot understand, but I accept them on faith because the God Who loves me and saved me asks that I accept it. One of the things that I can understand is that God expects every Christian to love every Christian. Jesus said:
John 13:35 … “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
The world knows that we are Christians because we who are Christian love other Christians. That’s not hard to understand, is it? If I love you but don’t agree with you, I can disagree in a kind and Christian way. I don’t have to get together with a bunch of people and draft a resolution against what you believe. If we are Christians the Holy Spirit of God will guide us into all truth (John 16:13). When I hear something that doesn’t match what God has said in His Word, then He speaks to my heart – and I move on. As D.L. Moody once said “When I eat fish, I eat the meat but leave the bones”. I can read a book by anyone and, comparing what I read to the Book can determine right from wrong because God tells me. Jesus also said
Matthew 5:14-16 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
If I am a Christian I need to be light in darkness. We are so busy being righteous and doctrinally pure that we can’t seem to be right about what matters. As Christians we are to be like Christ. We are to reach out to those who are suffering and lonely. We are to minister to the sick and the infirm. We are to give people a hand up, while pointing upward to Christ.
Just this week I read the tragic story of Amanda Michelle Todd, a 15 year old child who took her own life on October 10, 2012. This poor child posted a video online. In the video she never spoke, but held up flash cards to tell why she took her life. She was, in essence, bullied to death. Cruel bullies posted evil pictures of her online, and the children she went to school with mocked and degraded her. In despair she eventually took her own life.
Where were the Christians?
Were there no Christians in her school when a gang surrounded her and beat on her? Were their no Christians in her family who would sit down and talk with her, be a willing ear, show love? Did no Christian see the self inflicted cut marks on her arms and tell her that she is a beautiful girl that need not harm herself in this way? Where was the Light of the world? Oh, I’m sorry. We were out back arguing about Calvinism vs non-Calvinism, Pentecostal vs non-Pentecostal, Liberal vs Conservative, Baptist vs Presbyterian vs Methodist vs Lutheran vs ……
Dear God, please help us to wake up and be the light You have called us to be. Amen!
Today is July 6, 2021 and I just read this 6-yr old article you wrote re Christians arguing over Calvinisn vs. Non-Calvinism (Arminianism). Not knowing what it was, I grew up w/an Arminian belief and hit a block wall when I attended a Calvinist-believing church.Those I talked with to understand their beliefs seemed to value the title of being a Calvinist more than their most precious title of being a Christian. Although both sides can wrongly become extreme in their interpretation, in my experience, the Calvinist’s deep-seated religious views caused them to view their brother/sister in Christ as, a) “not really” saved, or b) in order to remain in the Calvinistic belief, define their bro/sis as having received a “God-given” false salvation.
I gave up trying to find balance which pushed me away from the confusion of Christian doctrine. Two years ago I took classes to become Greek Orthodox (which I value their long-standing beliefs but I cannot pray to the Saints in Heaven), so I stayed in Christianity w/resolution that I will not bend to twisting Gods Word to justify a belief I grew up with. My husband & I began to study…after many discussions and debates, we read Geisler’s book re this argument (a technical & difficult read) and six months ago I read D.A. Carson’s book w/an entire chapter dedicated to this issue which resolved my struggle.
My personal bottomline is now that if I can believe in Christ’s “Virgin Birth” (and I do), which makes no sense to our human understanding re how the world works (these two words cancel each other out), then I can accept the dichotomy of Calvinism & Arminianism as part of our unchanging God’s way to retain His mystery (i.e., keep hidden what He has chosen not to reveal). His Word asks/requires me to have enough faith in Him to believe that both views in Father God’s economy are correct and He remains sovereign.
–Your honest reasoning has helped me further along this well-worn path of understanding that my trust in the validity of God’s Word is dependable. Thank you.