by Bro. K.D. Ward
1 Timothy 2:4
“Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.”
During the reformation period John Calvin, once a Catholic priest, and also schooled as a lawyer, was a central figure in religious thinking. Calvin took the doctrines of Augustine, who lived in the fourth century, and arranged these teachings into a system of theology. Calvinism is a model of covenant theology, and according to some, became the rage of Europe.
Calvin is the father of the Presbyterian church. He was able to formulate his teachings into five basic points. These teachings expanded upon Augustine’s views of predestination, election and salvation. The need for contrasting Calvinism with the New Testament church relation is of great significance, because of its influence on Baptist thinking. By using the letters of the word TULIP, we are able to name the five points of Calvinism.
“T” = Total Unenablement, which is to signify that man, in a dead state, is not responsible and cannot will, until he is first regenerated, and caused to believe and be saved. But Jesus rebuked Israel because “You willed not” (Matthew 23:37) and (John 5:40), “You will not come to me, that you might have life.”
“U” = Unconditional Election, in that God did not use foreknowledge in those He decided to save, but merely decided, unconditionally, to save some and let the others perish. However, 1 Peter 1:2 says that there are those who are “elect according to the foreknowledge of God.” 1 Timothy 2:4 says that “God desires all men to be saved….”
“L” = Limited Atonement, in that He died only for those who He chose to save. The Bible teaches in Hebrews 2:9, “He by the grace of God might taste death for everyone.”
“I” = Irresistible Grace, and teaches that since man has no will, he cannot resist the Spirit and is CAUSED to believe. But in Acts 7:51, the charge was to those Jews that “you always resist the Holy Spirit as your fathers did, so do you.”
“P” = Perseverance of the Saved, meaning that if you are saved, you will persevere faithful. If you are not faithful, you were never really saved. This does away with any reward system that the Bible teaches. 1 Corinthians 3:14,15 teaches that people can lose reward (not the same as being saved), but can suffer loss, “but he himself shall be saved….” Many admonitions encourage the saved not to fall from their “own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked,” 2 Peter 3:17, “but grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (v. 18).
As we have seen, none of these teachings of Calvin agree with Scripture. Of course God can do anything He wishes, even forcing people to believe and serve Him. However, we see just the opposite in the Scriptures, and that the Calvinistic model could only teach the doctrine of a universal bride of all the saved. You must be faithful or you are not saved, therefore all are in the covenant bride.
So the great error of Calvinism is their teaching that election refers to first-faith salvation. God in His foreknowledge made His election before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4). God knew who would experience faithfulness in their lives in time. The elect will stand before God holy and without blame in love (Ephesians 1:4). In Colossians 1:22 it says that they would be holy and blameless if they “continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast….” This cannot be said of all the saved.
The New Testament church today is where God has His election, and it is here that we learn faithfulness in service. The apostle Paul said to the church of Thessalonica, “knowing, beloved brethren, your election by God” (1 Thessalonians 1:4). It is not just having our names on a church role, the church is not an end in itself, but is God’s means, as “the pillar and ground of the truth,” to teach faithfulness, since we must live out in time and experience God’s election.
Conclusion Those who follow Covenant Calvinism have joined the many who have been led astray from the truth. The covenant today is the New Testament church, where God is calling out from among the saved those who would follow in truth and obedience.