Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord GOD, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live? (Ezekiel 18:23 ESV)
God wants all people to obey his summons to repent and believe the gospel, and so be saved (Acts 17:30; Ezek. 18:23). In light of this, the church is called to preach the gospel indiscriminately to all people … to the ends of the earth (Matt 28:18). But sadly, all men without exception have a heart of stone, and in their willful blindness, turn a deaf ear and refuse to believe and follow Christ (Rom 3:11, 8:7; 1 Cor 2:14). He has no pleasure in seeing a humanity so unyielding and inflexible in their rebellion against Him.This saddens God and indeed angers Him. But even though all natural men reject this call to faith in Christ, God is yet still merciful. Instead of giving all of us what we justly deserve (His wrath), He still gives life and pardons more ill-deserving sinners than any man can count (Eph. 2:5; Rev. 7:9).
If God simply left us all to our “free will” as our Arminian friends contend, then none would be saved (Rom 9:16; John 3:19). None. This is because no man is naturally wiser than another (1 Cor 1:29, 30) but all men are equally captive to the flesh and unwilling to come to Christ. So leaving us to our so-called “free will” would actually the worst judgment God could possibly give a person – and yet this is precisely what He does to many of the self-seeking. (Rom 2:8) But Jesus’ work on the cross is so complete and sufficient for us that He was willing to do FOR US what we are unwilling to do for ourselves … giving us EVERYTHING we need for salvation, not only offering pardon to all that come to Him for life, but quickening to life all those the Father has given Him (John 6:63, 65, 37) that we would come to Him for life. It is incorrect to assume that if we are commanded to do something it is possible for us to accomplish it. When we, by grace, begin to understand what we cannot do (obey, repent, believe) we humbled before God who alone has the power to supply a new heart to believe (Ephesians 2:5,8) eyes to see and ears to hear (Deut 29:4, 30:6; Romans 9:16).
As Augustine once aptly said, “In some places God requires newness of heart [Ezek 18:31]. But elsewhere he testifies that it is given by him [Ezek. 11:19; 36:26]. But what God promises we ourselves do not do through choice or nature; but he himself does through grace.”
In this world, some get justice and some get mercy. But no one gets injustice.
Remembering Jesus – Even as a new husband I know the importance of remembering my wedding anniversary. It wouldn’t quite cut it if on that day I did nothing special for my wife and only mentally acknowledged our anniversary. She wouldn’t say, “How thoughtful! I’m glad you didn’t forget.” You don’t remember your anniversary by stating the facts. She would rightly expect that the concept of remembering our anniversary involves a layer of activity, such as me writing a note or taking her on a date. We remember our covenantal promise as I pursue, cherish, and love her afresh like I vowed on our wedding day.
The Quest for Rest – Augustine’s Confessions is one of the great classics of Christian historical theological literature. It is admired for its beauty of composition, its sophisticated literary construction, and its vivid and honest recollections of the life of its author. Some scholars would even say it began a new genre of literature. However, Augustine’s purpose in Confessions was not to masterfully write a new type of literature. Instead, he wanted to expose himself spiritually to his readers so they would learn from his example and find rest in worshipping God through the grace of faith in Christ.
Rise Early – William Law (1686-1761) was an English Puritan theologian best known for writing works in the category of practical divinity, a category to which we refer today as “Christian living” or “devotional literature.” His most famous work was a classic titled A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life. In it, he argues strenuously that the best way for a Christian to begin his day is to rise very early and spent the first hours in prayer and Scripture meditation.
“I have my own opinion that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and Him crucified, unless we preach what nowadays is called Calvinism. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else. I do not believe we can preach the gospel if we do not preach justification by faith without works; nor unless we preach the sovereignty of God in His dispensation of grace; nor unless we exalt the electing unchangeable eternal, immutable, conquering love of Jehovah; nor do I think we can preach the gospel unless we base it upon the special and particular redemption of His elect and chosen people which Christ wrought out upon the cross. – Charles Haddon Spurgeon (Autobiography: 1, The Early Years, p. 168)
What is Calvinism?
Calvinism is the soteriology named after John Calvin, who was not the inventor of it, but rather one who clearly wrote about it. Calvin’s soteriology wasn’t unique to Calvin, Augustine seems to have subscribed to it, as did most others. That is because it is the understanding of salvation that the Bible teaches.
We Calvinists believe that God is sovereign in salvation, just as He is in all other areas.
There are the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and each is God, and at the same time all are one God; and each of them is a full substance, and at the same time all are one substance. The Father is neither the Son nor the Holy Spirit; the Son is neither the Father nor the Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit is neither the Father nor the Son. But the Father is the Father uniquely; the Son is the Son uniquely; and the Holy Spirit is the Holy Spirit uniquely. All three have the same eternity, the same immutability, the same majesty, and the same power.
From the book Faith and Life: readings compiled from ancient writers is this selection from St. Augustine:
I. LIGHT IN THE LORD.
IF “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all,” and if we ought to have fellowship with Him, the darkness must be expelled from us, that light may be kindled in us; for darkness can have no fellowship with light; therefore see what follows, “But if we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie;” and you have the Apostle Paul saying, “What communion hath light with darkness?” Therefore let a man now say to himself, “What shall I do? how shall I become light? I live in sins and iniquities. A feeling of despair and gloom steals over me. There is no salvation except in fellowship with God. God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. But sins are darkness; iniquities are darkness. We are pressed down by iniquities, so that we cannot have fellowship with God; what hope then have we? what will become of us?” Let us listen, if haply He will comfort and uplift us, and give us hope, lest we faint by the way. For we are hastening to our Country; and if we despair of reaching it, we faint from our very despair. But He who wishes us to reach it, feeds us by the way, that He may preserve us in the Country. “But if we walk in the light, as He also is in the light, we have fellowship one with another.” Let us walk in the light, as He is in the light, that we may be able to have fellowship with Him. And what shall we do about our sins? Hear what follows; “And the Blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” It is great ease of mind that God has given us. The devil once held a bond of slavery against us, but it was obliterated by the Blood of Christ. If you have confessed your sins, truth is in you; for truth itself is light. Your life is not yet perfectly lustrous, for sins are there; but yet you now begin to be illuminated, for confession of sins is there.
–St. Augustine on First Epistle of St. John, Tr. i.