For those who are unfamiliar with the term Calvinism, please know that most of Church history is anchored in the Doctrines of Grace. It is not something new. Interestingly, Arminianism, or free will theology, is the liberal/progressive position (which could be another post in and of itself regarding the progression of liberal theology and its current position).
At the core of Calvinism is the Sovereignty of God. By Sovereignty I mean complete and utter authority over all things. To say that God is Sovereign over all things means that God is not reactionary, but instead He ordains, He governs. We see this description of God’s Sovereignty in Scripture. Here is a brief sampling.
- Isaiah 46:9-10 – “for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,”
- Psalm 115:3 – “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.”
- Job 42:2 – “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.”
- Ephesians 1:11 – “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,”
As I said, this is just a sampling of verses that point to God being in control of all things. God, through His revealed Word desires us to know that He is Sovereign; that He is in utter control of all things, including the hearts of men. Why?
One of the most important verses in the entire Bible is found in Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
This verse rightfully gives Christians immense comfort in times of difficulty. Its purpose was to remind Christians that no matter how hard things get, God is still in control and is orchestrating all things according to the counsel of His will, including persecution (verse 34).
Imagine if in the midst of suffering and disappointment instead of Romans 8:28, you were taught that God has no control over the hearts of man. That man has free will and they can do whatever they want, whenever they want. Imagine hearing that God has no control over Presidents, Supreme Courts, Kings, the man on the street, etc. Imagine being told that God is unable to control 7 billion wretched sinners. Would this make you feel good? Would this make you turn to Him in prayer? Would this cause you to have more faith in Him and trust Him in times of difficulty? No it would not. But this is what happens when we don’t teach Calvinism. When we refuse to proclaim the verses I cited above as well as others, such as:
- Genesis 50:20 – “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”
- Proverbs 21:1 – “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will.”
Failure by Churches to proclaim that God is in control in the midst of trials is, once again, a substantial failure by Pastors. What congregations need more than anything is God’s Word reminding them that he is still Sovereign God.
I think that it is interesting in Acts 4, when Peter prays immediately after being persecuted and released from prison. He begins by saying, “Sovereign God.” He then says, “for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.” (Verse 27). I do not think it was coincidence that Peter prays about God’s plan and His predetermining in the midst of their trials and tribulations. This truth of God working all things according to the counsel of God’s will was the rock that would hold the Church up in times of great difficulty.
I cannot help but think as America continues to openly rebel against their Maker that we as Christians will be persecuted more and more, the question for Churches, pastors, small group leaders, and parents is whether you will point to God’s Sovereignty or will you point to man’s free will?