Calvinism teaches that if you freely chose to believe in Christ, while others did not, then you’d have something to boast about before God. In other words, you could claim to be better and smarter than others who foolishly ignored the gospel message. The irony, though, is that God actually encourages some boasting:
Jeremiah 9:23-24: “Thus says the Lord, ‘Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,’ declares the LORD.”
We are not to boast of our efforts to save ourselves through our performance under the Law, which we are powerless to keep anyway, but we can boast of our relationship with God who saves us by grace, simply at the asking. Romans 3:27 states: “Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith.” So, boasting is excluded by a Law of Faith, in which God saves those who admit that they cannot save themselves but, instead, through faith alone, rely on the grace of God to save them. The problem with Calvinism, though, is that boasting can only be excluded by one thing—a Law of Irresistible Grace. For the Calvinist, Irresistible Grace alone is what mitigates boasting. The problem with that perspective, though, is that it is an extra-biblical argument, meaning that no apostle ever raised that point. Calvinists, therefore, are arguing from a conviction that is entirely absent of a documented biblical foundation.
Our surrender to God in faith, by humbly confessing our sins and admitting our guilt before Him, does not merit the forgiveness of sins. Instead, it is purely from the grace of God that takes the guilt that would otherwise freely condemn us, and instead uses that admission and plea for forgiveness as the basis to determine for Himself to extend the grace of pardon, merited by the shed blood of Christ at Calvary.
As an illustration, consider the “prodigal son” of Luke 15:11-32. After returning home in his humiliation, and being received by that warm welcome of his father, running to him and embracing him and giving him the golden ring and killing the fatted calf and having the party and hanging out in the corner of the party and bragging to his friends, ‘Well, you know, I did come home, after all. You know. I just want to brag about me coming home out of my pigsty. Look how great I am.’ It’s just silliness. It was totally and completely the choice of the father to run to him, to embrace him. He didn’t owe his son that, on the basis that he came home. He chose to do that because he is a gracious father, and that alone is what saved the son. He deserved to be stoned upon his return, probably, because of what he did to his father. But he was received in grace because the father is gracious.48
Calvinists accuse non-Calvinists of boasting of their wisdom and intelligence, in having chosen Christ while others refused, but I don’t know of any non-Calvinist who promotes such a thing. Non-Calvinists, instead, often speak of being a sinner saved by grace. Obviously, that is not Irresistible Grace, but rather the grace of God provided at Calvary which provided the means of salvation for the whole world. The irony, of course, is that Calvinists refer to themselves as “elect,” not in terms of being a Christian, but “elect” as someone chosen ahead of others.
What do Calvinists believe?
John MacArthur: “We are chosen unto salvation. We are chosen to belong to Him. When you look at your salvation, then thank God. Thank God! Because you are a Christian because He chose you. I don’t understand the mystery of that. That’s just what the word of God teaches. That is the most humbling doctrine in all of Scripture. I take no credit, not even credit for my faith. It all came from Him. He chose me. He selected people to be made holy in order to be with Him forever. Why he selected me, I will never know. I’m no better than anyone else. I’m worse than many. But He chose me.”49
John MacArthur: “To whom do you owe your salvation? You owe it to the God who chose you. You owe it to the God who predestined you. You owe it to the God who redeemed you, the God who forgave you, the God who wanted you to be His own because He wanted you to be His own. It doesn’t give any other reason, even though we are so unworthy, so unworthy.”50
From the Calvinist perspective, Irresistible Grace is the only thing that mitigates against boasting in ourselves because Irresistible Grace is administered without human consent. So, in place of the gospel of coming to salvation through faith in Christ is this romantic notion of God having secretly picked certain people from eternity to believe. The problem is that this type of thinking ultimately systematizes pride. It doesn’t remove it, but rather builds it up and justifies it, which is then masked in false humility.
What do Calvinists believe?
Dustin Benge: “I hear people say, ‘I am a Christian, because I
made a decision for Christ.’ The Bible never directs us to base our
assurance on a decision, but on the finished work of Christ on the
cross. Never rob God of glory because you want to take credit for
making a decision.”51
Salvation requires more than the “finished work of Christ” alone because the atonement is not applied to unbelievers, or else if it was, then people would be automatically saved before they ever heard and believed in the gospel. John 3:16 explicitly sets a condition for eternal life. If one does not meet the condition, they don’t get saved, and the condition involves a decision, and the decision involves believing in Jesus Christ as savior. Moreover, your decision alone doesn’t save you, any more than the atonement alone saves you. Both are necessary, and Jesus said: “But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:36-37) Additionally, it is never a matter of “robbing God” to say that you made a decision to trust in someone else to save you. By proclaiming that someone else saved you, you are deferring credit and glory to them
48 Dr. Michael Brown with Leighton Flowers on Soteriology101, 43:04-43:52. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gVuT2FkxE1w
49 The Sovereignty of God in Salvation (sermon 80-46T, 6/22/1980), https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/80-46/the-sovereignty-of-god-in-salvation.
50 Ibid., emphasis mine.
51 Twitter post, Dustin Benge@DustinBenge, 9/7/2020 .
This post has been excerpted with permission from Richard Coords, Calvinism Answered Verse by Verse and Subject by Subject, © 2020.