What Love is This?

Question: “A Calvinist gave me six verses not dealt with in What Love Is This? How do you respond? I am not a Calvinist and am looking for more insight. The verses are: Acts:3:16; 11:18; 18:27; 1 Corinthians:12:9,13; 2 Peter:1:1.

Answer: In 1 Corinthians:12:13 (“all made to drink”), there is nothing to support Calvinism. Paul is referring to Christians: those “baptized into one body.” The subject is the working and gifts of the Holy Spirit in the church, not salvation, much less predestination or election. Nor does “made” mean “forced.” If we were made to drink of the Holy Spirit in the sense of being forced, then all Christians would live perfect Spirit-filled lives, and there would be no purpose for the judgment seat of Christ with “fire [to] try every man’s work of what sort it is” (1 Cor:3:13) or for rewards. This verse doesn’t teach Calvinism.

The metaphor “to drink” defines “made.” Drinking requires faith, effort, and cooperation on the part of those through whom the Holy Spirit works. If grace is “irresistible,” bending the will of “totally depraved” sinners and causing them to believe the gospel, why doesn’t it cause them after they are saved to live perfect lives? If all is of God and nothing of man, then the human experience is just a giant puppet show—which every conscience knows is not the case.

In fact, Calvinists ought to avoid this verse because of the word “all” and its clear connection as well as contrast to what Paul said about Israel: they were “ all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and did all eat the same spiritual meat; and did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ” (1 Cor:10:2-4). Yet many of them “were overthrown in the wilderness” (v. 5).

What can the Calvinist say? Were some never saved in the first place? Then how is it that all were baptized and partook of Christ? Were some once saved but lost their salvation? Neither scenario fits Calvinism. Surely some were true believers, most were not. Yet all were delivered from Egypt, all partook of the Passover lamb, all partook of the same spiritual food and drink, etc.

James White avoids 1 Corinthians:10:2-4, as does Boettner. None of the 13 contributors to Still Sovereign touches it, and both MacArthur’s Study Bible and Sproul’s Geneva Study Bible ignore the obvious problem for Calvinism. Admitting that it is “an embarrassment to those of the Reformed persuasion,” Dillow attempts to face the problem in The Reign of the Servant Kings (pp. 54-59), but is ambivalent. R.T. Kendall declares that all of those who came out of Egypt were saved and are in heaven—clearly not true. God was going to wipe them all out for their sin (Ex 32:10), many were executed for their rebellion, and many were swallowed by the earth and went “down quick into the pit” (Nm 16:30)—surely into hell.

Clearly, there were no “elect” within Israel who alone were chosen for salvation. Salvation was offered to every Israelite without exception. That is why Calvinists avoid the Old Testament pictures of Christ’s coming sacrifice (as James White does in my debate with him in book form: Debating Calvinism: Five Points, Two Views ). None of the Old Testament examples fits any of the five points of Calvinism. Furthermore, many who were delivered at the Passover from Egypt were slain by God; and many who were healed through looking in faith to the serpent lifted up were lost eternally.

Books by Calvinists avoid the Old Testament when it comes to God’s dealings with Israel, the Passover, the serpent lifted up in the wilderness, and the Levitical sacrificial system. Why? Because they were for all of Israel, thus refuting “limited atonement,” i.e., that Christ died only for the elect. There is no hint of an elect within Israel who alone were the recipients of God’s grace. To the Calvinist, the word “made,” fits irresistible grace. But all Israel were made to drink of that Rock; yet all were certainly not believers, most perished in the wilderness, and many were judged instantly for their sin.

As for the other verses, Acts:3:16 says “the faith which is by him” and 11:18 says “God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life….” Of course, faith and repentance are from God, as is everything we enjoy. This does not say, however, that repentance or faith are given to only a select group, much less that either is irresistibly imposed upon anyone. Every breath that anyone draws is a gift from the One who “giveth to all life, and breath, and all things” (Acts:17:25)—but man must do the breathing.

The same applies to the other three verses, “them that have obtained…faith” (2 Pt 1:1); “which had believed through grace” (Acts:18:27), and “faith by the same Spirit” (1 Cor:12:9). The Calvinist tries to make faith a special gift of God given to only the elect, and only after they have been sovereignly regenerated by God. On the contrary, never does the Bible say that faith is sovereignly given by God; always faith is credited to the individual (Mt 9:22; 15:28; Mk 10:52; Lk 7:50; 17:18, etc.). Eleven times Scripture refers to “ thy faith,” 24 times to “ your faith” as well as to “ our faith… my faith… their faith… his faith,” etc.—but Calvinists avoid these scriptures in their books.” Dave Hunt