And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
Question: Who does Jesus seek to save?
Answer: John 1:11 states: “He came to His own,
and those who were His own did not receive Him.”
1st Timothy 1:15 states: “It is a trustworthy statement,
deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into
the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost
of all.” The salvation that Jesus brought, as per John
3:16 is a conditional salvation, provided that you
believe in Him. This does not compute with Calvinism,
since Calvinism teaches that Jesus came to seek and to
save only the elect lost.
Question: Did Jesus say that He has come to seek and to save that which is elect?
Answer: No, He said that which was “lost,” as in the world. Jesus said: “If anyone hears My sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world.”
Question: Do Calvinists believe that they were ever truly “lost”?
Answer: Yes and No. While Calvinists admit to being lost, they see humanity divided into two distinct classes of eternal sheep and eternal goats. Naturally, they see themselves as lost sheep, rather than lost goats. In this way, the Arminian criticism is that Calvinism plays lip-service to being “lost.”
The pickle for Calvinism is the thorny question of why would God send His Son to “seek and to save” those whom He had allegedly, unconditionally “passed by” from all eternity? Therefore, many Calvinists approach Luke 19:10 from the perspective of the elect lost:
Calvinist, James White: “Does He accomplish His purpose? Does He actually save, or only make savable? If He actually saves, does this not limit the scope of the ‘lost’?” (Debating Calvinism, p.176, emphasis mine)
If you consider salvation from the conditional nature of believing in Jesus, as per John 3:16, then the sinners that Jesus has come to seek and to save, must believe in Him in order to receive that salvation. Arminians want to know why Calvinists find that so hard to believe, and why Calvinists so often overlook the fact that salvation is an offer, which even Calvin admitted:
John Calvin: “Paul makes grace common to all men, not because it in fact extends to all, but because it is offered to all. Although Christ suffered for the sins of the world, and is offered by the goodness of God without distinction to all men, yet not all receive Him.” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries: Romans and Thessalonians, pp.117-118, emphasis mine)
If salvation is an offer, as Calvin admits, what is left of James White’s argument? Moreover if the “lost” is intended to mean all men, then the argument of James White is completely demolished.
While I’m not asking that all Calvinists believe exactly as Calvin believed, nor am I demanding that Calvin be defended by all Calvinists, I do think it wise, however, for Arminians to quote John Calvin for support, when support is available, in order to show a Calvinist that other Calvinists, even a patriarch of Calvinism such as John Calvin himself, at times agrees with the Arminian interpretation:
John Calvin: “When, therefore, the Gospel invites all to partake of salvation without any difference, it is rightly termed the doctrine of salvation. For Christ is there offered, whose proper office is to save that which had been lost, and those who refuse to be saved by Him shall find Him their Judge.” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries: Romans and Thessalonians, p.27, emphasis mine)
Therefore, Calvin agrees with the Arminians that the “lost” intended to mean everyone, and hence the point of James White pushes towards Universalism, which neither Calvinists nor Arminians teach.
Question: Regarding White’s comment, does Jesus actually save?
Answer: Yes, if you believe in Him; No, if you don’t.
Question: Regarding White’s comment, does Jesus merely make men savable?
Answer: Yes, if they look upon Christ, as per John 3:14-15/Numbers 21:6-9. Those who were snake-bitten had to look upon the provision of healing in order to receive its healing power. The standard will heal when they look upon it. This was Jesus’ analogy to the cross of Calvary. Jesus saves, and the saving occurs when we look upon Him in faith.
Adrian Rogers: “You have been called to minister. You have been called to bring souls bound in the golden chains of the Gospel and lay them at Jesus’ feet. Don’t you boast about your salvation; don’t you boast about your piety; don’t you boast about your spirit-fullness, don’t you tell me about your spiritual gifts if you are not endeavoring to bring souls to Jesus Christ. What right do you have to call yourself a follower of Jesus Christ if your business is not His business? And what is His business? The Son of God has come to seek and to save that which is lost. ...Would you pray, oh pray it, mean it, mean it, don’t just say it, ‘Lord, lay some soul upon my heart, and win that soul through me.’ If you can’t win an adult, win a child. If you can’t win your neighbor, win somebody else’s neighbor. If you can’t win somebody in your family, win somebody in somebody else’s family. If you can’t bring a soul to Jesus, help somebody else to bring a soul to Jesus.” (Saved To Serve: Romans 15-16, emphasis mine)
Summary: There is going to be very little room for agreement between the Calvinist and the Arminian at Luke 19:10 because Calvinism teaches that Jesus came only to seek and to save an elect body, for whom He, allegedly, alone died to save, rather than to have the Prevenient Grace of the power of the Gospel and the conviction of the Holy Spirit empower “whosoever will” to believe and be saved. Perhaps the best that can be accomplished at Luke 19:10 is to mark each other’s concerns, and then proceed to Matthew 1:21, to see how that verse builds upon the matter.