This is what I was asked recently. Taken aback, I replied “Am I a Calvinist? Yes.”
Wait, is that a bad thing? Because I usually fear the new. I am not one to jump on bandwagons too quickly; but Calvinism is not new. I did not know that I was a Calvinist. I learned however, that I was when I asked this question in a forum: “For whom did Christ die?” Through God’s providence that one question has proven monumental in my walk.
I had never heard the term Calvinist, and immediately looked it up and saw that my beliefs aligned with that teaching. God being Sovereign over all things including salvation had been identified as a system of beliefs called Calvinism, named after John Calvin, a French theologian and pastor of the 1500s.
The only thing is, I did not learn the sovereignty of God over all things from John Calvin. I learned it from reading my Bible, from the gospels to the book of Acts, to the epistles, and the Old Testament, where it starts. Also it piqued my curiosity to look into church history, and reading a lot of articles, commentaries and listening and watching many, many sermons.
During my quest, I read about the Protestant Reformation, which took place around the same time, and learned that there were Reformed churches. To accommodate my beliefs, I looked for a Reformed Baptist church. I Googled reformed Baptist churches in Sacramento, and ended up attending the first one in the search results, of which I’ve now been a member for almost a year.
When I learned of the term Calvinism, I also learned of the term Arminian, which I found out that the majority of the Protestant churches are. Arminians, named after Jacobus Arminius, a Dutch theologian from the 1600s, rejected John Calvin’s position and proffered that Jesus died for everyone, while those who held to the Calvinist tradition, believed that Jesus died only for his sheep.
Calvinism is also known for its 5 Points. Perhaps, you’ve heard of the acronym, TULIP.
Total Depravity (also known as Total Inability or Original Sin)
Perseverance of the Saints (also known as Once Saved Always Saved)
Calvinism exalts the sovereignty of God, that salvation is monergistic, meaning God alone brings about salvation, often referred to as the doctrine of grace; while the Arminian position is synergistic, that God works together with man’s free will. God may choose, but man must accept. (But it is God who makes man willing, so that man has no reason to boast. Psalm 110:3a; Ephesians 2:8) There are many sources on this, but one by John Hendryx, A Simple Explanation of Monergism may be found helpful.
Many reject Calvinism because they believe man has to have a hand in his salvation, and because of the “E” word, election, meaning God has chosen who will be saved. It is not based on their works, or any merit on their part. The elect are saved through hearing the preaching of the gospel. This is the reason God charges that the gospel be preached to all people for it is the power of God unto salvation. (Romans 1:16) God calls all men everywhere to repent and believe. Acts 17:30b
The answer to my rhetorical question on the forum – For whom did Christ die? was that Jesus said that I lay down my life for the sheep. (John 10:15) I know of John 3:16, but we would have to look at to whom Jesus was speaking. He was speaking to a ruler of the Jews, a teacher, a Pharisee. The Pharisees believed that the Messiah was coming just for them. Jesus here explains that he came to save people from every tribe and tongue (the world).
For if Jesus died for all, why would any go to hell? But we all know that all won’t go to heaven, right?
If someone paid your car off, would you still owe the creditor? No. The creditor would no longer have a claim over you. The debt would have been settled, whether you agreed with the person that paid it off or not. An honest creditor would return your check if you continue to make payments, saying it’s been paid in full. By the same token, Jesus has settled the sin debt payment for his sheep, believers.
So, when asked am I a Calvinist, I’d rather say that I am a Bible believer because it’s all over the Bible. John Calvin along with many theologians, just reclaimed the Bible’s teachings. The Apostle Paul was found doing this over and over with new founded churches, trying to bring them back to right doctrine.
To get a good understanding or to see this, I once heard a preacher recommend that one should read the book of John, then read it again but only chapters 1, 3, 6, 10, 15, 17 of John again, then Romans 9, and Ephesians 2; if I remember correctly. I do believe that the recommended reading may be helpful; although, there are many more.
There are also many sermons and writings on this, I haven’t even tapped the surface. But I would implore you to check it out. Perhaps too, you will see how glorious the doctrine of grace is and be humbled.
“All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” John 6:37
“No man can come to me, except the Father, who hath sent me draw him; and I will raise him up at the last day.” John 6:44