Calvinism: Is it a false teaching?
We mid-Acts Dispensational people are sometimes mistakenly labeled as false teachers. The same is true if you believe Christ died, making full payment for the sins of the entire world of mankind, providing forgiveness of sins for all even if no one believes it for salvation. These people seem to have overlooked the fact that the apostle Paul teaches justification by faith with resultant salvation but not forgiveness of sins by faith. He says not even one word about such in his many writings, even though that belief is frequently taught as though it was all over the Bible. And on and on it goes. But what about those who teach these other things that are so clearly contrary to what is taught in the Scriptures? What should our attitude be toward them? In this case, what are we to think of those who think of themselves as Calvinists? I’m aware that some who read this article won’t know what a Calvinist is, but probably most of the pastors you know do and it seems that we’re going through a period where more and more of them are buying in to John Calvin’s teaching.
About seven years after I graduated from a Christian college I enrolled in Reformed Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi, graduating from there in 1981. It was there that I got a full explanation of what this man, John Calvin, taught. Even though his teaching on some things is correct, I realized that much of his teaching is totally wrong. I knew that then and have an even better understanding of it now. I became quite familiar with it because I had to learn what he taught for classroom testing.
If you’re not familiar with Calvinism, I have quite a number of articles on our website that address various aspects of it, showing why his teaching was wrong. The most basic one that lays out a summary of his beliefs is called, Calvinism: What is it all about? If you type Calvinism in the search box, it will normally come up as one for you to select for your reading. The five main points of Calvin’s are as follows:
Perseverance of the Saints
You can see from this list where the term TULIP came from as a title for this teaching.
The apostle Paul commands us as believers to diligently study the Bible. We’re not to spend our time only looking for short, feel-good messages from it, as so many people do.
2 Timothy 2:15
15 Study [SPOUDAZO = be diligent] to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. [Emphasis added]
This verse isn’t just addressed to pastors but to all believers. There’s not a better use of our time than to invest it every day into some study of our Bible. Your time can be wasted in the pursuit of many things, but never in one’s acquisition of a thorough knowledge and understanding of the Scriptures.
One of the most important things for you to realize about Calvinism is that those who believe it have their own separate made-up definitions for many of the terms they use to explain it. For instance, to them total depravity means total inability to even believe the gospel if God doesn’t choose to cause the individual to believe it. But Scripture doesn’t tell us that! Clearly, God could have done things that way, but He chose not to. Instead, He chose to give us all free will [something else Calvinists don’t believe people have] and a chance to believe whatever we want to believe, right or wrong. He doesn’t cause or coerce anyone to believe anything. For instance, all people are completely free to accept or reject the gospel message and the salvation God offers. It has been this way in the past even as it is now. Another way they redefine things is in the use of the word world. To them, Christ died only for the so-called elect [those who choose to believe the gospel], not all mankind, even though Scripture clearly teaches otherwise, making salvation available to anyone.
1 John 2:2
2 And he [Christ] is the propitiation [the One satisfying the just demands of God] for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.
What could be clearer? The apostle Paul tells us the same thing.
1 Timothy 2:4-6
4 Who [God] will have [THELO = desires] all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.
5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;
6 Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. [Emphasis added]
Because provision was made for all to be saved, anyone can put their faith in the work of Christ and gain everlasting salvation immediately.
21 And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved. [Emphasis added]
13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. [Emphasis added]
Clearly, anyone can be saved! God didn’t predetermine that only a select few could be saved. Only those who freely choose to reject the gospel of grace are rejected for salvation. It is one’s personal unbelief and rejection of what God provided that has been the only thing that has ever kept anyone from salvation.
17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. [Emphasis added]
It nowhere says people are not saved because they were not selected for what God provided for a limited few. Whoever wants salvation and seeks to gain it through what God has provided can have it. Again, that’s the way it has always been.
Again, Romans 10:13
13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. [Emphasis added]
Only those who choose to reject God’s provision are left out.
4 Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen [KATARGEO = having no further power] from grace. [Emphasis added]
Nothing is ever said or indicated that God’s offer is limited to only a few in a preselected group. This is why you should never be concerned about such in presenting the gospel message. Anyone you present it to is capable of freely accepting it or rejecting it.
A major concern I have is that some well-meaning people don’t understand the seriousness of Calvinism as a false doctrine. Here are some questions of many I have for these people.
1—Does God not love all people? Calvinists claim that He doesn’t.
The Bible is clear that we’re to love all people, not just the so-called elect. This includes both believers and unbelievers, regardless of their beliefs. This is a part of our work in drawing them to God’s love for them. Christ gave His life on the cross for them which proves His love for all mankind, not just believers. We have passages that speak of both our love for believers as well as for unbelievers.
1 John 4:10-11
10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us [when we were unsaved], and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
11 Beloved, if God so loved us [even before we were saved], we ought also to love one another. [Emphasis added]
9 Let love be without dissimulation [ANUPOKRITOS = hypocrisy]. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.
10 Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; [Emphasis added]
13 For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. [Emphasis added]
Again, we’re to love all people, wanting only the best for them.
15 Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, [Emphasis added]
4 Since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints, [Emphasis added]
1 Thessalonians 3:12
12 And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another [fellow believers], and toward all men [including unbelievers], even as we do toward you: [Emphasis added]
2—Didn’t Christ do what He did on the cross because of His love for all people?
16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. [Emphasis added]
It is this love that we’re to have for them that should motivate us to give them the gospel [EUANGELION = good news] message by which they can be saved. But Calvinism limits this love to “the elect,” to God’s predetermined saved people only. When I was in seminary, I was shocked when I realized this is what was being taught.
Now bear in mind that some who think of themselves as Calvinists don’t teach this. But that’s often because they’re not aware of what it means to be a “true blue” Calvinist. As I said before, Calvinism is on the rise today, but when some people find out all its beliefs and implications, many will have second thoughts about it and should.
Because of Paul’s deep love for his unbelieving Jewish brethren, he makes quite a statement about it.
1 Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.
2 For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.
3 For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness [thinking their own works are sufficient to please God for salvation], and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.
4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth [Emphasis added].
Again, because God clearly loves all people, He has a deep desire for all to be saved, not just a select few.
20 But Esaias is very bold, and saith, I was found of them that sought me not; I was made manifest unto them that asked not after me.
21 But to Israel he saith, All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying [ANTILEGO = opposing, obstinate or stubborn][unbelievers, in this case] people. [Emphasis added]
Despite his deep love for them and strong desire for them to have the right attitude toward God, the apostle Paul had some strong, harsh words for false teachers in his day. Resistance to truth gets them and anyone in trouble with God.
5 But after thy hardness and impenitent [AMETANOETSOS = resistant, unwilling] heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God;
6 Who will render to every man according to his deeds: [Emphasis added]
Furthermore, didn’t our Lord also have some strong, harsh words for such people?
13 But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. [Emphasis added]
Probably the worst thing about Calvinism is that it is a hindrance to evangelism and leading others to the salvation God offers to all. When you believe God only provided a way of salvation for a few preselected people, how can that be anything but a hindrance to this? If you see anyone showing any resistance to it, don’t you think it would cause someone to wonder whether Christ died for that person? No, Christ died, paying the full penalty for the sins of all, making anyone and everyone a candidate for salvation. We have no excuse at all for not boldly and gladly presenting this good news message to anyone.
False teachers posing as servants of God are to be opposed in their teaching. But even the apostle Paul was once a false teacher of God’s Word for many years. But it was on the Damascus Road that he was caused to see the error of his way.
1 Timothy 1:12-14
12 And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry;
13 Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.
14 And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. [Emphasis added]
There have been quite a number of people who became great servants of our Lord after some time of rebellion against Him. We never know when we may be confronted by such a person. We must always bear in mind that people, anyone, can have a change of mind [repent]. We must always be willing to let God use us as a part of such a process. However, we must also realize that false teachers are spoken of in Scripture as enemies of the cross of Christ. Therefore, we need to see them all in that light.
17 Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.
18 (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ:
19 Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.) [Emphasis added]
We must, therefore, expose these people for what they are. Never coddling them and failing to expose them for who and what they are. Just as they are our Lord’s enemies, they are ours too.
People who think of themselves as Calvinists are embracing false teaching. We need to do everything we can to lovingly enlighten them and to warn others who may be influenced by them.