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Marks of a true Calvinist:

This article was e-ailed ot me by a good friend. I ralize that the term “Calvinism” sparks negative connotations in the minds of many in the Western religious realm; mostly due to a poinsoning of the well. I would side with Spurgeon when he said that the doctrines of grace are nicknamed “Calvinism”. These truths are not man made, nor man centered. They are clearly taught in the Word of God.

Never the less, as huan nature is, when a man is shown these truths by The Spirit of God; we get prideful. This article is very encouraging….may God use it for His glory.

Marks of a True Calvinist
By Pastor Jeff Johnson – Grace Bible Church of Conway

There seems to me to be two types of Calvinists. The Calvinist who has learned his Calvinism only by studying books and creeds, and the Calvinist who, although he has studied these same books and creeds, has come to understand it by the illumination of the Holy Spirit. In other words, there is the Calvinist who has the TULIP acronym in his head, and the Calvinist who has it in his heart. The major difference between them is pride and humility. The former has become a little arrogant if not all together harsh because of his personal intellectual accomplishment, while the latter has been deeply humbled by a fuller understanding of the doctrine. Regardless, only those Calvinists who are gentle and humble should be considered as genuine Calvinists. Why? Because, they are the only ones who really understand it and have been affected by it in their own personal lives. Therefore, as we shall see, humility is the distinguishing mark of a true Calvinist.

1. To begin with, humility is the mark of a true Calvinist because when the doctrines of grace are supernaturally revealed to a person, they are accompanied with an infusion of meekness and humility. James in his epistle makes this very clear: “the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy” (James 3:17). In the school of Christ, we learn more than just theology, we study practical godliness as well. Our Teacher will not instruct us in one without the other. In fact, to seek to be versed in doctrine without seeking godliness (the end of doctrine) is an act of ungodliness in itself. Christ our heavenly Instructor will not have that. When He teaches, it results in the pupil obtaining true wisdom. First of all, it is true wisdom because, “the wisdom that is from above is first pure,” that is, it is biblically sound. Secondly, it is true wisdom because it is not just knowledge alone, but the discernment of how to implement that knowledge into one’s daily life. In other words, it is a wisdom that makes one “peaceable, gentle and easy to be entreated.” Rather than making us arrogant, true wisdom makes us humble. On the flip side, James warns, “If ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish” (James 3: 14-15).

It is Sad to say that many Calvinists today are mean-spirited, arrogant, and downright divisive. They are willing to divide God’s people and separate themselves from those who happen to not hold to the same Calvinistic creed as they do. Furthermore, they look down on Arminians of varying nuances as being less intellectual and intelligent than they are. This manifestation of Pride is not of the Lord nor is it the result of a real spiritual understanding of his word. You see, Satan has his school of theology as well, and he does not mind you becoming highly educated in the things of God as long as they do not get rooted in your heart and bring forth the fruit of righteousness. Pride, bitter envying, and strife is the result of learning doctrine outside of the school of Christ. Oh, with this concern in mind, may we who hold to the precious doctrines of grace; be sure we are humble, as well as gracious and friendly towards all those who are yet blind to these truths.

2. Lastly, humility is the mark of a true Calvinist because one cannot truly understand Calvinism without being humbled by what it teaches. An arrogant Calvinist is a contradiction. Prideful Calvinists are inconsistent with their head knowledge of Calvinism because they negate what they teach by how they live. It is further inconsistent because Calvinism teaches us to live humbly both before God and man, which is the very essence of Calvinism. True Calvinism teaches that we were blind to all spiritual truth. Not only were we unable to see the beauty of election, we were unable to see even the beauty of Jesus Christ. Is this not what total depravity teaches? Furthermore, Calvinism stresses grace, and not human accomplishment. Therefore, why do some Calvinists make their boast in themselves? Why do they glory in their own mental powers, when it is God’s free grace that is to be accredited? You see, humility, is the outcome of a real understanding of Calvinism, for not only the T, but also the U (unconditional election) emphasizes this. When a person fully grasps the concept of electing grace (within his heart and not just his head) he cannot help but realize that he is no better than any one else. Being laid low by this understanding leads him to a sense of pity, and to be kind and gracious to those who are still untaught to the doctrines of grace.

In light of this clarification, we who have been taught of God and who understand the doctrines of grace, ought to strive to practice what we peach. We should not consider ourselves higher than Arminians, the Wesleyans and so forth, many of whom are brothers in the Lord. I am not saying we are to be ashamed of the precious truth of God’s word and suppress it for the sake of “being peaceful,” nor am I saying that all Christians are gifted with the same intellectual abilities. What I am saying is simply that we know all that we know only by God’s sovereignty and by God’s grace, and therefore, we have no reason to boast in ourselves. Spiritual inability is the great equalizer. We who have this precious doctrine imbedded in our hearts ought to know that we are Calvinists not because we are geniuses, but because it has been freely revealed to us by God. So, if pride ever creeps in, we should ask ourselves this, “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?” (ICor. 4:7).

To summarize, if we have been taught by Christ and have been given wisdom from above, let us be ever mindful to glory not in ourselves, but rather as James instructs us, “Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom” (James 3:13). May we not only proclaim the doctrines of grace, but may we go further and adorn ourselves with it by walking in humility, for humility, I believe, is the true mark of a Calvinist.


One response

  1. Interesting post. Unfortunately, I don’t see many humble believers of any stripe when it comes to arguing (er, sharing) what the Holy Spirit has revealed to our hearts. This pastor makes a lot of sense. Thanks for sharing.

    November 9, 2008 at 9:21 pm

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