Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know, if you’re not a Calvinist then reading this the title hasn’t made you predisposed to agree with me. To be fair to myself there are people who would say that unless your Calvinist you’re not a Christian. But that is quite hard to square with the Bible which says that ‘all’ people need to do is believe with theirs hearts and confess with their mouths that Jesus Christ is Lord and repent and be baptised. Not much about the doctrines of grace in there.
But whilst it isn’t strictly necessary to being a Christian I’m going to spend the rest of this post explaining why it really does help. Now, before I do so I need to make it quite clear that this isn’t be going: ‘I’m a better Christian than you! Nah, nah, nah.’ Far from it. There are great Christians in history who haven’t been Calvinist (but not as many as those who have been!) Part and parcel of being reformed in my theology is a greater realization of my own sinful state. Indeed, I would go as far to say that part of what makes Calvinism so vital to Christians is the very fact that it brings man down to the dust. As Paul writes: ‘When I am weak; I am strong’. And what Calvinism does so well is hitting home our weakness.
There are no ‘what-ifs’ under predestination
Oh, if only I had chosen a different subject at university…if only I had chosen a different job…if only I had remembered to turn up to that appointment…if only I had married another person…
A truly accurate understanding of the sovereignty of God as found in Reformed theology makes all these vain what-ifs distinctly un-Christian. As a Calvinist I see (should see) God’s hand in everything, I see his perfect, wise, holy and good will and purpose acting out in the world around me. So there should be no ‘what ifs’ there should only be what God has decreed. And that should be such a source of hope and encouragement. God had laid our path before us and we walk it. We can put aside all vain regrets and instead focus on living the life God has prepared for us to his glory.
It helps us when bad things happen
When troubles, sadness, heartache, persecution, distress, affliction, sorrows and tribulations come then it is only when we realize that this is from God and for our good that we can say: “He is the LORD; let him do what is good in his eyes.” (1 Samuel 3 v 18)
It is only when we remember the great words in Proverbs that we can react properly to troubles:
“My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline,
and do not resent his rebuke,
because the LORD disciplines those he loves,
as a father the son he delights in.”
Proverbs 3 v 11 – 12
What a comfort it is when we grasp that when things don’t go our way, when bad things happen, these are discipline from the Lord sent out of love to build us up and make us holy before him. And yes, I speak from personal experience when I say that these truths are always hard to believe but I can also speak of the peace of trusting solely in God and the bittersweet feeling that comes when I can remember that all troubles are for my own good and God’s glory.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”
Romans 8 v 28
Because a Calvinism sees predestination in literally everything we can take this statement at face value and believe it fully.
Assurance of salvation
“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.”
John 10 v 27 – 29
Only Calvinists can have full assurance of salvation because only Calvinists believe that before the creation of the world God predestined his elect to be saved and that as Jesus says here ‘no one can snatch then out of my hand’. A member of God’s elect can not not be a member of God’s elect. Joy of joys and wonder of wonders: my salvation is secure in the hands of God. No matter how sorely tempted I am, no matter if I backslide, no matter what happens I am God’s son adopted through Christ and that isn’t going to change.
Ok, ok, I haven’t learnt this lesson very well. But it’s a lesson my stubborn heart is learning.
Because as a Calvinist I believe that my election was entirely unconditional and all of grace and not of works least I should boast. Therefore, what call have I for any pride? If my salvation isn’t mine but out of God’s mercy what can I boast of? I, like everyone, was born spiritually dead, blind in my unbelief and a slave to sin. Did I want to seek God? No! I pursued my hell-ward path with single minded folly. Did I understand God? No, I had hears that didn’t hear and eyes that couldn’t see. I was wretched in my spiritual darkness and uncaring about it.
So what changed? Did I see the light? Did I discover some new truth? Did my parents finally succeed in brainwashing me? I think not.
“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.”
Ephesians 2 v 4 – 5
What a humbling truth! I contributed nothing to be salvation, it was all of God’s mercy and grace. The very fact that I’m not as humble as this should make me is testament to the sin within me.
The truths of Calvinism provide us with all the encouragement we need in evangelism
“For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.”
Acts 18 v 10
When Paul was in Corinth and discouraged about his work in spreading the gospel then God came to him and encouraged him with two facts: his sovereignty in Paul’s protection and his sovereignty in salvation.
The truths of Calvinism remove the greatest burden from our shoulders: we do not save people. God saves people.
“Salvation comes from the LORD.”
Jonah 2 v 9
In this time we are living in then not much seems to be happening in Britain, churches are emptying, divisions split us, heresy abounds, the Reformed truths have been neglected and there is much cause for concern. But our hope, our eternal hope is the simple fact that it is God who saves. We are merely his instruments.
So there is no cause to doubt revival, no need to grow disheartened at the darkness of the nation for God is in control! Everything is working out to his plan which is for the good of his people. What encouragement this is! Should this not make us turn to God with increased fervour and pray that he will work powerfully?
What encouragement it is as well to continue to pray for our unconverted friends for if they are members of God’s elect then our prayers are not in vain. They will come to Christ.
You don’t have to be Calvinist to be Christian but it helps.
There is no other doctrine that exalts God to such a high degree and brings man to his lowest. There is no other doctrine that accepts the full and complete sovereignty of God over everything even salvation and glorifies God for it. There is no other doctrine that comforts, rebukes, challenges, encourages and builds up. Properly understood Calvinism warms the heart and takes it heavenward, it reveals God in all his majesty and man in all his weakness.
I face my future standing solid on the rock of Jesus Christ and his plan for my life. And though at times my legs tremble, I stumble and I fall then I remain for no one can snatch me out of my Father’s hand. Let me boast in my Lord and his good and perfect plan for my life, let me boast of his power over all things and let me boast of his grace to me.