What makes a true Calvinist?
There are essentially two concepts that make people ‘Calvinists’. Just as there are two concepts that make people ‘Arminians’. These concepts are; the Holiness of God and the authority of Scripture. A high view of God coupled with a high view of Scripture make men ‘Calvinists’. A diminished view of God and Scripture make men ‘Arminian’. There are exceptions to this, John Wesley had a high view of God and Scripture but was an ‘Arminian’ while ‘hyper-Calvinists’ have a somewhat lower view of God and Scripture. But this is not the subject of this post. What is the subject? What makes a ‘Calvinist’. If I were to try to make men ‘Calvinists’ (I don’t) I would probably not preach Romans 8, 9, or 10. I wouldn’t preach Ephesians 1 or 2. What text would I use? Probably Isaiah 6.
An Encounter with the God of Scripture
In Isaiah 6, the prophet sees God almighty. Isaiah is confronted not with the dead king, Uzziah, not with David or any of the other great kings of the past, but with the King of all the heavens and the earth. He sees God high and lifted up. So great is this King that His throne from which He rules is higher than the thrones of men. Higher than the thrones of the spirit realm. He is high and lifted up. Isaiah then notes that the train of His robe fills all the temple. The length of the robe signifies His glory. His robe fills the temple. His reign is not an earthly kingdom, but His kingdom is a kingdom of priests who serve Him. He combines religious devotion with eternal rule.
Around Him the seraphim are flying. These angelic beings who have never sinned, and who by men’s standards are called holy ones, are shouting to one another “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;the whole earth is full of his glory!” These Angels have six wings. With two wings they cover their faces, unable to look on the brightness of the Glory of God. With two wings they cover their feet, the symbol of their creatureliness. They show us God’s holiness, glory, and worthiness as they worship their Creator. This should serve to show us that God is not like a man. God is higher and greater than we are. Even Angels who have never sinned find their sole occupation in the worship of this God. God is not one of us. He is outside of us, outside of creation, governing over all creation. And yet He reveals Himself to Isaiah. At which point Isaiah begins a journey in ‘Calvinism’. Isaiah sees his own depth of depravity after he has seen the Holy One. His election is implicit in that God appears to him. Atonement is made for him. He hears an call from the Almighty which he finds irresistible. He is given an impossible message to proclaim and then told to persevere until the end of time. And then he is assured of a sure outcome. God’s elect will be saved by the preaching of the message. This, my friends, is ‘Calvinism’ in its purest form. It is as Spurgeon said, “The fire of Wesley and the fuel of Whitfield”. Or in modern terms, the fire of Graham and the fuel of MacArthur. It is seeing God and then running with the vision impressed on hearts and minds to show others. It is Biblical Christianity.
But this vision of God is not a mystical experience. It’s not a dream or imagination or hallucination. It is Scripture revealing God to man. Or better said, God revealing Himself through the pages of Scripture. Scripture is our authority. But taking Scripture as our authority is sure to produce an experience. And not an experience that takes hold for a few moments, days, weeks, or months. It is a life-changing encounter with the God of Heaven. And this is the God who is found throughout the pages of Scripture. It is God who sends us on an impossible mission, sustains us, and guarantees the success of the mission. This is a life being governed by the Word of God, unable to shake the knowledge of God that has been given. It is our task and ouprivilegege to bring this knowledge of God to the nations. And so all nations, tribes, peoples, and languages will worship God and God alone.
The Five Points Of Calvinism – Defined, Defended, Documented. David N. Steele, Curtis C. Thomas
The Holiness Of God. R.C. Sproul
Systematic Theology. Wayne Grudem
The Pleasures Of God. John Piper
Let The Nations Be Glad. John Piper
What Is Reformed Theology? R.C. Sproul
After Darkness, Light. Edited by R.C. Sproul, Jr.
The Sovereignty Of God. Arthur W. Pink
The Attributes Of God. Arthur W. Pink