Friday, 31 May 2013



For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it? (1 Corinthians 4:7)
We sincerely thank God for every non Reformed Evangelical Christian who are gloriously inconsistent in their professed belief and who in the presence of God, fall humbly at His feet and give Him all the glory for their conversion. We must add, however, that such is inconsistent, because in answer to the above question; "Who made thee to differ from another?" and thinking particularly of the difference between them and unbelievers, the non Reformed Evangelical must answer to the effect that they made themselves to differ. Before God and inconsistent with their creed, they would not dare assert such a thing. The words would die on their very lips, but as Spurgeon pointed out long ago, things are often said in the heat of battle that could not be repeated again in the presence of the Lord.  Such inconsistency, in this case, is glorious.

The following is an imaginative conversation between two Christians who love each other in the Lord. Like this page, the dialogue is conducted in love but with a particular point to be made. The first believer is a Calvinist - the other has yet to see these truths. May the Lord graciously open his eyes ;o)

Be a good Bearean and search the Scriptures daily to see whether these things be so (Acts 17:11)


Calvinist: (afterwards: C) Well, my good brother in Christ, I was thinking of that statement by Paul when he wrote: For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it? (1 Corinthians 4:7) We know that there is a difference between the Lord's own people and the lost - can you tell me, as far as you are concerned - where this difference came from?

Non/Calvinist: (afterwards N/C) I think your quoted text may well be referring to the false, bloated teachers who had infiltrated the Corinthian church. I notice that John Calvin seems to give this the first meaning in his commentary.

C: True, but the question is bigger than the immediate context and Calvin was also happy that Augustine made good use of this verse in his battle with the Pelagians.

N/C: Well, if the other man is lost, then it is all his own fault. He perishes in his own corruption (2 Peter 2:14) having reaped corruption from the fleshly seed which he himself sowed (Galatians 6:7-8)

C: I agree with you 100%. Damnation is all,  totally and only of sin. Men are damned because they love the darkness rather than the light because their deeds are evil (John 3:19) But I think you misunderstand what I am getting at here. What accounts for the difference in  your salvation?

 N/C: Well, if this other man did not believe to the saving of his soul, I did.

C: Do you want to qualify that before I answer?

N/C: Well, I suppose I should say "Humanly speaking." John 3:18 would back me up here: ”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.”

C: But why do you think you believed while he didn't? Were you a better person?

N/C: I see your emphasis now. No, I was not a better person. Salvation is not based on human merit or human merit plus faith. The other man may have outwardly better than me, but he failed to come to Christ, while I did, and so I am saved and he is not. At least not as yet as far as I know. Why did I believe? Hmmmm! I have a sneaking feeling that if I say that I perceived my spiritual danger and need and was greatly moved by the beauty of Christ etc., that you are not going to rest content with that! Are you?

C: I think your answers are good, but only as far as they go. In fact, I would agree 100% again with you so far. But  I think you see that the issue goes a lot deeper than that. We both agree that sin damns and that grace saves, but why did you get the grace that saves, while he was left with his sin that damns?

N/C: Well, he got left with the sin that damns because he wanted it!

C: I agree. But why did you get the grace that saves?

N/C: I wanted it! I mean, this man got offered it too and he rejected it. I got offered it and received it.

C: I agree that it was offered to him, and that in all sincerity, and that he refused it and so brings righteous judgement upon his own head, but surely there must be something more to your receiving of it? Are you saying, in answer to Paul's question, that ultimately you made the difference?

N/C: Well, more my faith than me.

C: Yes, but you exercised your faith did you not? Faith is a relative term - relative to where it came from and where it is put.

N/C: Hold on! Are you trying to take away this idea of it being my faith?

C: No, that is not my intention. I accept that you, as I did, put your faith in Christ. No one can believe for you or believe on your behalf. We are rational people, fully accountable for the things we do (both good and bad) but I must probe further here. Basically, you believe that you had the decency to receive the promised gift of eternal life and so you are saved.

N/C: Hey, that's as loaded as it comes! I received the undeserved gift of eternal life. There is no merit in believing, if that's what you're getting at. I came as an undeserving beggar, I took the offered mercy and He lifted me from the dunghill (to quote 1 Samuel 2:8) and set me among princes.

C: {Smiling} Answer me this. Is faith the basis of salvation or the instrumentality?

N/C: The basis of salvation is grace alone. Faith is the means or instrumentality. "By grace are ye saved THROUGH faith" (Ephesians 2:8-9)

C: Good. I agree again, but how come, you had saving faith and the Christ rejecter who dies in his sin didn't?

N/C:  He did. He just didn't use it to come to Christ.

C: But it cannot be saving faith, if it did not save him.

N/C:  What do you mean?

C: The very nature of saving faith is that it actually saves. Anything less is not saving faith.

N/C:  Well, I believe that God gives all men faith and those who exercise it by putting it in Jesus Christ are saved, so (I suppose) it becomes saving faith.

C: If it can only becomes saving faith when it is applied, then the other unsaved man never had it, did he?

N/C: I don't doubt the logic of your statement there, but all men have a faith that will potentially save.

C: So, a fundamental difference must lie outside of the faith itself and even more so, it must lie in the person who activate it since he seems to have (in your system) the ability to do so.

N/C:  I suppose so.

C: You don't sound too happy about it.

N/C:  That's because I know what you're going to say next! You're going to go back to your question again "Who made me to differ?" and I've got to say that I made the difference myself.

C: While I think we need to be careful that we do not slacken man's responsibility nor lessen the idea that it is the sinner who believes and not God who believes for the sinner (in this we are totally agreed) yet I think you cannot do anything else, but put yourself as the one who made the difference is this matter.

N/C: I don't think Paul had himself or any other saint in mind when he posed this question.

C: No he didn't.

N/C: How do Calvinists explain it?

C: In keeping with the truth that God makes the difference, the man who is saved was granted actual saving faith while the other man was left in his sins without it.

N/C: You mean election? I always have difficulties with the thought of God saving some and damning others.

C: You only have difficulties if you see men are being neutral and God picking out some to live and some to die as if He were the Ultimate Commandant in a concentration camp. Everyone would have serious difficulties with that one.

N/C: Pretty graphic illustration. I know you don't believe that, but you'd better still explain.

C: When God viewed the large mass of as yet uncreated humanity, He did not view them in a state on innocence nor as victims, but as guilty sinners who deserved eternal death because of their sins. It is important that we grasp this, otherwise you end up with a horror story.

N/C: Go on.

C: Out of this vast mass of fallen and therefore guilty humanity, He chose to save some, but not all. He purposed to leave some in their sins.

N/C: I have always believed that election was based on God foreseeing who would believe and on that basis...

C: On what "basis?"

N/C: ... elected them to eternal life. This is my interpretation of Romans 8:28/1 Peter 2:2

C: So the basis (your words) of election which leads to salvation is your faith?

N/C: Yes. Indeed, it is the condition of our election. We are the Conditional Election boys. You Calvinists run with the Unconditional Election side of the argument.

C: That's very interesting, because a few moments ago, we agreed that faith was merely the instrument, not the basis of salvation. Now, you have your faith as the basis of the grace that leads God to elect us and not to elect others. Again, you are making your own self the difference. You effectively elect yourself and God rubber stamps your choice and by and by all it comes together when you make the difference by believing.

N/C: You have a way with words there :-)

C:  Not really :-)

N/C: Well, obviously you believe that God gives only saving faith to His elect?

C: That's right.

N/C: Did He create then the non elect, whose none election is not on the basis of sin, to damn them in hell?

C: The non-elect’s non election (a mouthful there!) is not on the basis of sin, but only as far as comparing them with the elect are concerned. Some of the elect were more wicked than the non elect. Paul put himself forward as the chief example in this regard in 1 Timothy 1:15 by calling himself the chief of sinners.  On the other hand, the non elect have been left to perish in their wanted sins and will only be damned in Hell for their sins and nothing else.

N/C: Where they born then to be damned? You Calvinists can only answer in the affirmative.

C: Well, how can Calvinists only answer in the affirmative (as you say) where the Non Calvinists don't have to? Whatever charges you lay against the Calvinists will ultimately make its way back to your camp also. 

N/C: What do you mean?

C: Well, the argument normally runs: "Why did God create people whom He was going to damn?" Leaving aside the fact that we should argue that men effectively damn themselves by their sins, we might answer, "Why did God create people whom He knew was going to be damned?"
N/C: But the difference is this: He gave them a chance to be saved.

C: I agree, but from a different angle. However, if Calvinists are at fault, your side is still on the hook too. He offered them a Saviour, even though He knew that they would not receive Him?

N/C: Did I detect that you are not happy, even as a Calvinist, with saying that God created men to damn them. Am I right?

C: You are.  I prefer to follow the emphasis of Scripture and say that God created men to glorify Him and enjoy Him for ever and that they failed. Scripture always puts the blame of the sinner upon himself. We cannot father any sin on God.

N/C: Shades of the Shorter Catechism there! You say the sinner failed (and I agree) but did God fail?

C: No. We can't explain it all, but neither can we put failure and frustration or disappointment on the list of the Almighty's attributes.

N/C: OK. So God creates all men, even though He knows some will not believe and ultimately will be damned because of their sins. Why could He not just give them all saving faith as you see it?

C: You tell me!  The question is applicable to us both. We both know He could have done so. I say that He didn't, because it did not please Him to do so, even though He might have. Why do you say that He didn't?

N/C: I suppose we're back to the idea that He knew beforehand that some men wouldn't believe.

C: If He foreknew something, then it must have been something definite as opposed to something merely possible. You can't foresee an event that might or might not take place.

N/C: So how does this all work out?

C: God chose out of this mass of a guilty and lost humanity His elect and  he sent Christ to make atonement for their sins and then undertook to bring them savingly to His Son and preserve them until they enter into glory.

N/C: Why then does God offer the non elect Christ as Saviour (as you admitted a few seconds ago) when they will not, and because of sin, believe?

C: My answer would be, because it shows His great heart of love to all men, even though it stops short in their case, of overcoming their unbelief. Indiscriminate preaching of the gospel is also the means God has of bringing in His elect. It leaves also the reprobate without any excuse. But again, what is your answer to the same question? The non elect will not believe no matter what side of the Calvinist/Non Calvinist controversy is true. God at least knew this, and yet He still pushes ahead with gospel preaching, the striving of the Holy Spirit etc., and watches the unbeliever die in his sins, withholding saving grace from him when He might have intervened and saved him, as he did to the Dying Thief.

N/C: You must admit though, our side still makes it easier to preach to the ungodly.

C: Does it? I can see how the ungodly will listen to your side more. You elevate him with the thought that God is waiting on him and indeed has structured salvation around his response. Election just wouldn't be election in your scheme of things if the sinner chose not to believe. In fact, there was a possibility of no one being in Heaven at all, because the entire human race might have chosen not to believe and where would that have left God?

N/C: Such was the love of God, especially in sending His Son to die for us, that there were always going to be some who would believe.

C: I agree with you that men must marvel that God should spare not His own Son and marvel at the riches of the gospel etc., but still, wherein lies the difference between one bankrupt sinner and another? You are still back to the thought that the difference lies in the sinner himself, for God has not fundamentally given him anything that He has not given to all men which is the case if your system of doctrine be true.

N/C: This is all fine and well debating this point, but how practical is it?

C: That depends. I think we both know in our hearts, that it is God who makes the difference. Calvinism captures this spirit better than your alternative. Probe a little deeply with your system and you hit the bedrock of man's contribution. Election is conditioned on it. Faith needs it to become saving faith. It quickly becomes man centered with God filling in the gaps. The thought of praising yourself and owning that you made the difference is rightly repulsive to you, and that is good. But it is only good if you take the Calvinist line, whether you want to call it that or not.

N/C: This is still doctrine. What is the practical outworking?

C: Practically, it can impact how we evangelise. Providing the Calvinist retains the balance of Scripture and keeps to the Scriptural command to preach the gospel indiscriminately to every creature, then he cannot go wrong.  He will avoid that shallow type of preaching that reduces him to being (as it has been well put) a salesman as opposed to a postman. He preaches in season and out of season with a real solid and consistent knowledge that God's word does not return until Him void (Isaiah 55:11)  I'm afraid your position doesn't allow for that, because the difference lies in man and not in God. There are no God centred purposes to be worked out.

N/C: I usually preach with an expectancy that folk will be saved etc.

C:  That's because you do not take your creed to its final and logical conclusion, but subconsciously adopt the Calvinistic one. If the difference belongs to God, then He will show that difference where and when and on whom He pleases, and the evangelised elect sinner will come because graciously drawn, while the non elect sinner will persist in his sins and be damned.

N/C:  That's worth thinking about. It has been a good conversation. Still friends?

C:  Of course. Here! Grab a few tracts and let's get some outreach done.



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