Cork Free Presbyterian Church, 10 Briarscourt (Annex) Shanakiel, Cork, Ireland Pastor: Colin Maxwell. Email: cfpc@esatclear.ie

HYPER CALVINISM AND EVANGELISM

The above cartoon, taken from a hyper Calvinist Website, aptly sums up the way hyper Calvinists (as opposed to true 5 point Calvinists) think about evangelism. As the words in the last box suggest…they believe it is an utter waste of time. Basically this cartoon has taken a Scriptural truth about the sinner being dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1) and perverted it with a wrong application. I will comment on it frame by frame.

Frame One: Preacher addressing corpse with the words: "There is nothing you can do to be saved! All you have to do is…"

My comment: It would be better to say to the spiritual dead sinner: 'You cannot save yourself by your own efforts or by church based activities etc., but you can save yourself by attending to and heeding the message of the gospel." [1]

Frame Two: Preacher addressing corpse with the words: "Accept Jesus Christ as your personal Saviour!"

My comment: While there are some who might quibble with the word accept yet we are happy to run with it here. Here the preacher is inviting/urging the sinner, as a responsible being, to take that step which bring him into the experience of salvation. [2]

Frame Three: Preacher addressing corpse with the words: "Can't you see the Kingdom of God?"

My comment: Here is a better question. "Why not look to Christ and be saved?" [3]

Frame Four: Preacher addressing corpse with the words: "Walk in the newness of life!"

My comment: If there is any quibble here, it is only on the grounds that no such exhortation actually appears in the Bible, except addressed to the people of God (Romans 6:4) However, this would not stop me from telling a sinner: "If you come to Christ, you can know what it is to walk in newness of life…Come to Christ etc.," and warn them that failure to find this life is because they will not come and receive it (John 5:40)

Frame Five: Preacher addressing corpse with the words: "Can't you hear me? I'm trying to save you!"

My comment: I think we are moving here into the realms of the caricature. The work of the gospel preacher is to bid the unconverted to hear the word of Christ. As elsewhere, God often takes such exhortations to undo the spiritual damage which sin has wrought.

Frame Six: Get up man! Save yourself! Choose ye this day whom ye shall serve.

My comment: These are fair enough exhortations if given in the gospel i.e. after explaining the crippling power of sin. If they are used in the sense of mere man made reformation, then they are useless. But if we have explained the need for and the way of salvation…then these words or similar are proper. Paul's sermon at Pentecost actually uses these words "Save yourselves"

Frame Seven: Preacher walks away from the corpse with the words: "Another lost soul! He didn't chose Jesus or life!"

My comment: Assuming that the preacher did "preach unto him, Jesus" (Acts 8:35) before the various exhortations, then he cannot be faulted for these words. He is putting the blame where it belongs i.e. on the sinner. We assume that he would try again, through the means of gospel preaching, to arouse this dead sinner to see his spiritual need. [4]

Frame Eight: All words. Quotes and applies the words of Ephesians 2:1 and concludes: "All the evangelising in the world will do him no good!"

My comment: If this conclusion is right, why then do we evangelise at all? Why then the great commission addressed specifically to "every creature?" (Mark 16:15) If not evangelism, what other means then does God use to achieve the great end of the ingathering of His elect? See 7 reasons why Calvinists evangelise.

 

NOTES:

[1] If this sounds almost heretical to you, remember what Peter said when preaching indiscriminately to the multitude at Pentecost: And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation. (Acts 2:40) John 'Rabbi' Duncan (An eminent Scottish Calvinist from a past century) said well: "Is man active or passive in regeneration? He is both; he is active about it and passive in it." The Bible never exhorts the sinner to sit back and accept his fate.

[2] Based on the words of John 1:12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name. It is not wrong to preach this text to sinners, nor to put its basic thrust into a precept form. Peter again in the Pentecost message (Acts 2) urged spiritually dead sinners to "hear" (v14/22) again "know assuredly" (v36) "Repent" (v38) and again "save yourself" (v40) We don't have to believe in the natural ability of the sinner to urge the sinner to an evangelical response. The sinner's responsibility is enough for us to make these kind of exhortations.

[3] As God Himself urges the whole earth full of sinners: Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else. (Isaiah 45:22) We can hardly leave this thought without mentioning Spurgeon's report of his conversion. Read it for yourself. True, the preacher was not a Calvinist, but this is not the point. He was a faithful evangelist and on that morning, a very successful one too. Was Spurgeon a spiritually dead sinner that morning? Yes he was. And yet God used the very exhortation itself to bring him to Christ. The word was attended by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit and through the means of this exhortation, Spurgeon was drawn irresistibly to Jesus Christ. To quote John Duncan again: "Look! You say you cannot, but 'Look ye blind' He bids you." Remember, it's not for us to play God.

[4] The words of the preacher here reminds us of the very words of Christ Himself when He said to the spiritually dead people of His day: "And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life." (John 5:40)

COMMENTS OF JOHN CALVIN ON ACTS 2:40

"AND WITH MANY… Although in these things which we have had hitherto, Luke did not recite the words of St Peter, but did only briefly touch the chief points; notwithstanding he telleth us again in this place, that Peter did not use doctrine only, but did add the pricks of exhortations. And he expresseth plainly that tie stood much hereupon. Whereas he saith, that he did exhort and beseech, he noteth therein his earnestness. For it was not so easy a matter for them by and by to take their leave of those errors wherewith they were of late infected, and to shake off the government of the priests whereunto they were accustomed. Therefore it stood him upon to pull them violently out of this mire. The sum was this, that they should beware of that froward generation. For they could not be Christ’s unless they would depart from his professed enemies. The priests and scribes were then in great authority, and forasmuch as they did cover themselves under the visor [mask] of the Church, they did deceive the simple, This did hinder and keep back a great many from coming to Christ. Also some might waver, and other some might fall away from the right faith. Therefore Peter plainly declareth that they are a froward generation, howsoever they may boast of the title of the Church. For which cause he commandeth his hearers to separate themselves from them, lest they entangle themselves in their wicked and pestiferous fellowship. Whereas he saith, Be ye saved, he signifieth unto them that they shall surely perish if they couple themselves with such a plague. And surely experience doth teach us, how miserably those men are tossed to and fro who cannot discern the voice of their pastor from the voice of other men; and again, what an hindrance softness and sluggishness is to a great many, whilst they desire to stand in a doubt. Therefore he commandeth them to depart from the wicked if they will be saved. And this point of doctrine is not to be neglected. For it were not sufficient to have Christ set before us,unless we were also taught to flee those things which do lead us away from him. And it is the duty of a good shepherd to defend his sheep from the wolves. So at this day, to the end we may keep the people in the sincere doctrine of the gospel, we are ever now and then enforced to show and testify how much Papistry differeth from Christianity, and what a hurtful plague it is to be yoked with the unfaithful enemies of Christ. Neither ought Peter to be accused of railing, because he calleth the reverend fathers, who had the government of the Church in their hands at that day, a froward generation. For those dangers which may draw the soul unto destruction are to be showed by their names. For men will not beware of poison, unless they know that it is poison. " (EMPHASIS MINE)

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