A Biblical Critique of Calvinism
Part 1a: The Inclusivity of the Gospel Invitation
by Dr. Michael A. Cox, Pastor, First Baptist Church, Pryor, OK
and author of Not One Little Child: A Biblical Critique of Calvinism
This is the beginning of a series of articles by Dr. Cox, with a Biblical critique of Calvinism drawn in part from his book Not One Little Child.
The Bible teaches that whosoever will may come to Christ in repentance and faith. As we will see, Scriptures related to this doctrine are numerous through all the genres of the Biblical text. This article will address the references from the Old Testament through the book of Acts.
A Psalm of David teaches that the Lord responds to all who call upon Him in truth (Ps. 145:18) and that the Lord hears the cry of those who fear Him and promises to save them (Ps. 145:19). Jeremiah recorded God’s words when He said that even heathen nations who repent and turn to Him can become His people (Jer. 12:16). Joel registered God’s words when He said that whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be delivered (Joel 2:32). These Scriptures accurately summarize the testimony of the Old Testament regarding “whosoever will.”
Then, the New Testament champions this doctrine unmistakably, providing a plethora of scriptural testimony which harmonizes perfectly with the Old Testament witness. The words of Jesus declared that God says to no person “seek in vain,” but “seek and you shall find” (Matt. 7:7). He promised that all who ask receive (Matt. 7:8). Notice that asking precedes reception. Man clearly has a role in the salvation event, and it is requesting the Lordship of Jesus Christ by faith coupled with repentance. Jesus guaranteed that He would confess before His Father in heaven everyone who confesses that He is the Christ (Matt. 10:32). Jesus also averred that all humans are more valuable than any animal (Matt. 12:12). He asserted that whoever humbles himself or herself in childlike faith to Himself is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 18:4). Jesus also taught that everyone who abandons all for Him, making Him his or her top priority, shall inherit eternal life (Matt. 19:29). Further, we read that the invitation to join the bridal feast is issued to all (Matt. 22:9). And, finally, in the Gospel of Matthew, we learn that whoever humbles himself will be exalted (Matt. 23:12).
In the Gospel of Mark Jesus said that whoever does the will of God is His brother or sister (Mark 3:35). He also declared that anyone can come to Him through self-denial (Mark 8:34), and that whoever loses his life for the sake of Christ actually saves it (Mark 8:35).
In the Gospel of Luke we learn by way of angelic proclamation that Jesus brings great joy for all people (Luke 2:10). Moreover, Luke interpreted the ministry of John the Baptist to be a fulfillment of Isaiah’s earlier prophecy that a voice in the wilderness would come announcing that all flesh shall see the salvation of God (Luke 3:6). This idea is echoed in the words of Jesus when He said that everyone who comes to Him and hears His words and acts upon them is as wise as a builder constructing his house on a solid foundation (Luke 6:47). Luke, like the other synoptists, repeated the words of Jesus which pledge that any who hear and do the word of God are related to Christ (Luke 8:21). Luke reiterated the words of Jesus which affirm that anyone can come to Christ (Luke 9:23), that whoever loses his life shall save it (Luke 9:24), that everyone who asks receives, that he who seeks finds, to those who knock the door shall be opened (Luke 11:10), that God’s Holy Spirit is given to those who ask (Luke 11:13), that everyone confessing Christ is admitted into heaven (Luke 12:8), that all who deny Christ are denied access to heaven (Luke 12:9), and that, once again, whoever loses his life shall preserve it (Luke 17:33).
I love all of the books in the Bible, but I have a particular fondness for the writings of John and Paul. John the Apostle wrote that John the Baptist came to witness to the light that all might believe (John 1:7). He also certified that as many as receive Jesus become children of God (John 1:12). John the Apostle even recorded the revelation from John the Baptist which asserted that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). Jesus told Nicodemus that God loves the world and that whoever believes in Christ will not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16). Jesus further explained to Nicodemus that God sent Him into the world to save all the world, not just some (John 3:17), and that he who believes in the Son has eternal life (John 3:36). Jesus promised to grant eternal life to all who ask (John 4:10), and that all who hear and believe are given life (John 5:24). Clearly then, personal belief triggers the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. Moreover, Jesus wants all to believe in Him whom God sent (John 6:29), and He promises that God gives the water of life to all who ask Him (John 7:37).
Luke recorded Simon Peter’s explanation of what happened on the day of Pentecost. Peter saw Pentecost as a fulfillment of Joel’s earlier prophecy (Joel 2:28-32) which announced that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved (Acts 2:21). Peter’s racism and redemptive exclusivity required a special revelatory vision from God before the impetuous apostle could finally see that God does not show partiality regarding salvation (Acts 10:34). Peter, therefore, preached that, in every nation, those who fear God and do what is right, i.e., place faith in Christ, are welcomed by God (Acts 10:35). Then, Luke wrote concerning the converted Pharisee, Saul of Tarsus, whom we know as the Apostle Paul. Paul, in an early sermon, affirmed that through Christ everyone who believes is freed (Acts 13:39). Paul cited Isaiah (Isa. 49:6) in asserting that God wants salvation, not just the gospel, spread to the ends of the earth (Acts 13:47). In his sermon on Mars Hill, Paul proclaimed that God has declared that all people everywhere should repent (Acts 17:30), pointing out that proof has been furnished to all men by way of the resurrection of Christ (Acts 17:31). Lastly, Luke provided helpful insight in this scriptural examination of Calvinism when he asserted that some were persuaded to believe in Christ but that others would not believe (Acts 28:24). Notice the presence of persuasion and personal belief, as well as the obvious fact that the situation was not that some could not believe, as if they were not part of the elect, but that they would not believe, which stresses personal accountability and rejection of the grace of God.
The next article in this series will continue tracing the inclusive invitation of the gospel through the pages of the New Testament.