Fishing Like a Calvinist (5)

While it’s a little cliché (but certainly true), no revival can happen without an intervention from the Holy Spirit. Spiritual revivals in history happen because of an outpouring of the power of the Spirit. This was the case during the spread of the gospel in the 1st century or the Great Awakening. But when we’re talking about that mighty work in a revival, we’re focusing upon the scope and hence the quantity on conversions. What I would like to focus upon in the outburst of God’s salvation is the quality. What role does the Spirit play in salvation? To some, the Holy Spirit is nudging people towards Christ in an attempt to work gently in their hearts to believe (Prevenient Grace). To others, such as yours truly, the Spirit doing something much more radical in changing the person’s disposition and giving a new heart so that they can believe (Effectual Grace). On which side you fall in your definition will determine the quality of grace that is empowering your evangelism and, let’s face it, will largely affect your evangelism as well.

Now we get to the “I” in the famous TULIP flower. While we’ve ventured into examining the work of the Father and the Son in the salvation of an individual, we now move to the work of the Holy Spirit. Yes, the work of salvation is Trinitarian! The Holy Spirit’s work is essential to the salvation of souls (1 Corinthians 6:11) and to an individual recognizing the Lordship of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 12:3). The Spirit’s work happens throughout this age in the application of those blessings purchased by Christ that are required for the salvation of a depraved sinner. What God has decreed, and Christ came to secure now needs to be applied! This application is to those for whom Christ died and none other. That work includes the spiritual regeneration or resurrection of spiritually dead sinners (Titus 3:5). It is the Spirit who gives life (2 Corinthians 3:6). While the evangelist provides the outward call of the gospel to lost sinners, the Spirit extends an inner call that changes the disposition of that sinner. This isn’t just any call, but a supernatural calling which effectively brings about a change. In other words, He grants individuals the heart to believe in the Son! This is the blessing of the New Covenant in Christ, that Yahweh will give a new heart and put a new spirit within them (Jeremiah 31:31; Ezekiel 36:26-27). This is the true circumcision of the heart that is required to be pleasing before God (Deuteronomy 30:6). He is the One who opens the heart of lost sinners to receive the words of the Lord (Acts 16:14).

The Spirit is also the one who causes of the new birth! Yes, the new birth happens through the Spirit and brings about belief, not the other way around. The children of God were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God (John 1:12-13). For people to enter into the Kingdom of God (let alone see it), they must be born again, which, in return is another way of saying born of the Spirit (John 3:3-8). This wasn’t a decision on our part but something that the Spirit caused to happen (1 Peter 1:3), through the power of the word of God (1 Peter 1:23). It would be wise to take a moment to consider the chronology of the new birth with the faith an individual. I’ve argued that the new birth precedes faith and the objection to this is generally that it’s the other way around. The argument is that the new birth is given by God when a person believes rather than the new birth being the essence behind the faith. But when we read 1 John 5:1, we must at least consider that faith is attributed to the birth by God. Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. (1 John 5:1 ESV). Notice that the belief that Jesus is the Christ came because that individual had been born of God. In the same way that an individual doesn’t love God to be born again, they don’t believe to be born again. When we examine the usage of the new birth in this epistle, we notice that this makes sense. Those who are born of God practice righteousness, they don’t receive the new birth in doing righteousness (1 John 2:29). The essence of loving God is because we have been born of God, we don’t become born again because we are loving God (1 John 4:7). In the same way, we don’t receive the new birth because we’ve overcome the world but we overcome the world because we’ve been born of God (1 John 5:4)

For the evangelist, this should bring a tremendous encouragement in that while he/she is proclaiming the gospel of grace, the Holy Spirit is applying grace to them behind the scenes. This isn’t to say that an individual can’t reject the Holy Spirit since this is what they naturally do, but that those for whom the sacrifice is made, those whom Yahweh has chosen before the foundation of the world, in the right time, will be granted the miracle of faith. They will be given repentance and faith that leads to life (Acts 11:18). A grace and faith required for salvation that is the gift of God through Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9). Salvation is granted to certain individuals (Philippians 1:29; 2 Timothy 2:25-26) who are described as those who were appointed to eternal life. Notice that this wasn’t everyone, but those who exercised faith were those whom God had chosen to salvation prior to the foundation of the world (Acts 13:48). The offer of the gospel takes on a new light to that individual in that he/she no longer can refuse it. They are drawn by the Spirit to it, and it will not fail to bring them to salvation. Those who are called are also justified and glorified (Romans 8:30), if all men were called the same way, then we’d be thrusted into universalism.

The evangelist still needs to recognize that a person must still believe to be saved. They need to hear the outward call of the gospel and commanded to repent! Yes, even though the power of the Holy Spirit calls them, they become new creatures, receive a new birth, salvation is through faith. The lost still need to turn from their sin and in return believe in Christ. With such a power working in this world, it certainly should give us confidence in the outward call.


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