RANDOM (or Rambling) THOUGHTS AND CAUTIONS FOR YOUNG CALVINISTS AS THEY BEGIN TO MINISTER THE GOSPEL OF GRACE
I have now been in the Christian ministry for 47 years, all of which has been spent from the Baptist standpoint. After attending an Arminian Bible College and pastoring for five years, I became deeply troubled with the “decisionism” within the circles in which I was operating. It was not producing the converts like those which I saw in the Bible, nor was it bearing witness with my own conversion.
My studies led me to see the truths of how God saves sinners by an act of sovereign grace. I started preaching grace in 1968 and four years later I was removed from the church which I had founded. I truly have no regrets and remain committed to the truths which I hold so dear.
I have been asked by a friend to give my advice to young Calvinists regarding how to handle some of the issues involved in preaching grace. By young Calvinists, I mean those who have recently embraced these truths, not those numbered by calendar years. I will be describing those like myself, who have the switched from Arminianism to Calvinism, not those whose Christian experience has always been in the Calvinist setting.
ONE Remember These Truths Can Only Be Seen As God Is Pleased to Reveal Them.
One can only see and love these truths as God opens his eyes. This can only lead to humility when properly understood. There is no place for arrogant pride in the Calvinist ministry. While ministers of all persuasions are susceptible to looking down on others from a spirit of pride and superiority, nothing is more ugly than a “proud Calvinist”. The nation of Israel made this mistake. They misinterpreted their election of God. Instead of becoming a serving people to minister and evangelize the other nations, they interpreted their election of God as being that of exercising rule and dominion over the other nations. This led them to withdraw into themselves and view others as reprobate dogs. Don’t let your good to be evil spoken of. Avoid preaching down to others who do not have this high knowledge like “ we Calvinists” possess.
TWO If It Takes God Five Years to Bring You to See a Truth, Don’t Try to Teach it to Others in Thirty Days.
Even Paul spent three years in the Arabian desert getting his theology straight before he began to teach others. People perceive truth as it comes to them as set forth in Isaiah 28:9-10, “Whom shall he teach knowledge? And whom shall he make to understand doctrine? Them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts. For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little.” Paul had many things to say to the Hebrews but they were yet not able to bear it or understand it. The same was true of Jesus’ teachings.
Try to remember your objections to the doctrines of grace before you had them removed. Then give the same benefit to others. Having believed the doctrine of the carnal Christian, it took me three years to work through the issues before I saw its error.
THREE Don’t View Your New Understanding of Sovereign Grace as a New Method for Church Growth.
Some read about how Spurgeon believed these things and had a large growing church and conclude that is what is missing in making our churches grow like his. I have seen several young Calvinists (in age) think in this manner and when their expectations did not materialize they left the ministry.
FOUR Don’t Think You Are Growing In Grace If You Are Separating Yourself From Others.
Let those who disagree with you separate themselves from you, not vice versa. There is a false idea that making contact with those whose doctrine is questionable will somehow contaminate oneself. In John 20:21 Jesus said, “As my Father has sent me, even so send I you.” Jesus was holy, harmless, and undefiled with sinners, yet He did not feel that making contact with them would defile Him. He left a perfect, sinless world to come into a sinful fallen world on a mission to save sinners. If we are becoming more like Christ, we will be reaching out to make contact with the imperfect humanity around us. It was the Pharisees who felt defiled in making contact with sinners. We are IN the world, but we are not OF the world. Don’t become a Pharisaical Calvinist.
FIVE While Spending an Adequate Time In Your Study, Don’t Fail to Visit Your People In the Hospital and In their Homes.
They will listen to you better and appreciate you more if you are involved in their lives on a personal level.
SIX Be Honest and Up Front If You Are Considering Accepting a Call To a Church That Is Not Calvinistic.
Don’t deceive the people by hiding your beliefs and trying to sneak them in a little at a time after they have called you. This is unethical!
SEVEN Don’t Be a Closet Calvinist.
“The fear of man brings a snare: but whoso puts his trust in the Lord shall be safe.” (Proverbs 29:25)
EIGHT Don’t Try To Change The Practice of a Church Until You are Able to Change Its Doctrine.
You change its doctrine by systematically preaching through a book or sections of Scripture and dealing with the doctrines as they come up in the texts. Let the people see the truth in the texts themselves.
NINE Preach to The Intellectual Level of Your People.
Don’t think you can preach to college graduates if you can’t preach to shut-ins in a nursing home or to children in a vacation Bible school.
TEN Don’t Make Statements About Others In the Pulpit That You Would Not Make to Them in Private.
Boldness is not rudeness!
ELEVEN Remember To Preach Both Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility.
Both of these truths are in the Bible. Failure to do so produces either Hyper-Calvinism or Hyper-Arminianism.
TWELVE Don’t Preach Election and Particular Redemption In Such a Way as to Leave Your Hearers Trying To Figure Out If They are Elect or Not.
Preach the Gospel of Christ’s incarnation, sinless life, substitutionary atonement, bodily resurrection. Call for repentance and faith. Assure them that “Whosoever will call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” The book of Romans is the greatest treatise on the gospel that can be found in the Bible. Paul doesn’t deal with election and predestination until the middle of chapter eight and into chapters 9 and 11. Election is not the gospel. It is God’s explanation as to what makes the gospel successful. Turn men to look outward to Christ, not inward to themselves to determine whether they are one of God’s elect. We make our calling and election sure by believing the record God has given us of His Son.
THIRTEEN Try To Develop Some Trade Or Profession In Which To Support Yourself In the Event You are Not Able To Be Supported By The Gospel.
Paul did this. Jesus advised this to His disciples. Don’t make your wife and family suffer hardship and turn away from Christ because of your inability to support them. They are your greatest mission field. Don’t overlook them.
Many more things could be added, but this will suffice as my input into the matter. May Jesus receive the preeminence in all things and our lives honor Him and not bring shame to His name.