[The following post was authored by Ben Henshaw, and has undergone some revision with the author’s permission for inclusion here.]
Calvinists often argue that God’s love has failed if Christ’s atonement was made for all and yet not all are saved. I find it strange that Calvinists, who are so quick to criticize Arminians for holding to a man centered religion, argue that unless man responds to God’s love in saving faith, then His love for them has somehow failed. How is it that they feel comfortable equating the success or failure of God’s love with man’s response to that love? Is the nature or validity of God’s love dependant on man’s response? Doesn’t that seem a little man centered?
I personally believe that God loves and gives according to the goodness of His nature and that His love for mankind would in no way be diminished if every single person on the planet rejected that love. The cross is so much more beautiful to me when I consider that Christ willingly laid down His life even for those who would forever reject Him. I cannot think of a more powerful demonstration of perfect love. That most of mankind rejects that love and provision cannot diminish its significance in the slightest.
In the same way the incarnation demonstrates the love and humility of an amazing God.
As Paul so beautifully wrote:
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death- even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:5-8 )
What an amazing story that God would leave His throne and become a man out of love for a fallen race. Paul tells us that our attitude should reflect Christ’s humility and love. Does that mean that if someone does not return our love that we have somehow failed to emulate our Redeemer? Of course not! And neither is Christ’s love rendered void when a sinner rejects His gracious and loving provision.
An angel of the Lord appeared to some lowly shepherds on that greatest of days and said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people” (Luke 2:10; NASB).
Did you hear that? Good news of great joy for all the people! What does that mean to you? How could such a message be true in light of Calvinism? How could Christ’s coming possibly be good news of great joy to one who has been denied any part in Christ’s atoning work by way of an irrevocable decree? Does it really make sense to suggest that the angel only meant, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for relatively few unconditionally elect among the people”? And of course we know that Christ’s work was not only for the people of Israel, nor only for the covenant people of God, but for the world (John 3:16; 1 John 2:2). As the righteous and devout Simeon said of Jesus by the Holy Spirit when Joseph and Mary brought him to dedicate him to the Lord, “my eyes have seen your [God’s] salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel” (Luke 2:30-32; ESV).
I am so glad that I don’t have to understand the angel’s proclamation in such a strange way. How good it is to remember at this holiday season that Christ’s coming was intended to bring joy to all of mankind because all of mankind was loved by God in Christ. The Lord came not for a few but for all just as His love extends to all. That so many reject that love is a tragedy, but they forfeit the joy that could be theirs of their own accord. That so many reject that good news takes nothing from the joy and goodness of the message. If, however, that message of good news and great joy was not intended for them, then the joyous message of the Lord’s angel rings hollow at best.
How good it is this Christmas season to rejoice in Christ’s birth from an Arminian perspective. May God use us to share the good news with someone this Christmas season. I hope you will feel the freedom to say to any sinner, without constraint, that Christ’s coming is truly good news for them.
God Bless and Merry Christmas!