But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life. And who is adequate for these things?
In other words, the Gospel brings confirmation to believers and conviction to unbelievers, that is, conviction to unbelievers of the certainty of judgment if they do not repent. The New Living Translation reads: “To those who are perishing we are a fearful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved we are a life-giving perfume.” (v.16)
John Calvin comments: “It was because many opposed him and hated him that some in Corinth were beginning to despise him. But his reply to this is that faithful and sincere ministers of the Gospel have a sweet savour before God not only when they quicken souls by the fragrance of salvation but also when they bring death to unbelievers; thus the fact that the Gospel is opposed should not make us value it any less. Both savours, he says, are agreeable to God, both that by which the elect are recreated unto salvation and that by which the reprobate are tormented. This is a notable passage from which we may learn that whatever the results of our preaching may be, it is pleasing to God provided only that the Gospel is preached and our obedience is acceptable to Him. The good name of the Gospel is in no way brought into disrepute by the fact that it does not profit all. For God is glorified when it brings about the ruin of the reprobate and so this must happen. And if anything is a sweet savour to God it ought to be so to us also, that is, we should not be offended if the preaching of the Gospel does not result in the salvation of all who hear it, but should think it quite enough if it promotes God’s glory by bringing to the reprobate a just condemnation.” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries: II Corinthians, Timothy, Titus, and Philemon, pp.34-35, emphasis mine)
According to Calvin, “whatever the results of our preaching may be, it is pleasing to God,” insomuch that “God is glorified when it brings about the ruin of the reprobate.” Therefore according to Calvin, God is, in fact, very much pleased by the death of the wicked, despite the fact that God said exactly the opposite: “‘Say to them, “As I live!” declares the Lord God, “I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die, O house of Israel?”’” (Ezekiel 33:11) The fact is, that Jesus did not come into the world to torment or judge the world because the world is already judged and condemned. (John 3:18) Jesus states: “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.” (John 12:47) The idea of God being glorified when people go to Hell is unscriptural. Jesus gets glory when every knee shall bow. (Philippians 2:10)
1st Corinthians 1:21 states: “For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.”
Notice that Calvin sees this passage as confirmation of an eternal two-class system by which the Gospel glorifies God “when it brings about the ruin of the reprobate.” But that’s not God’s intention at all. Here is God’s intention for the Gospel: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) God loves the world so much, despite it being fallen and reprobate, that He wants to save it through His Son. All are already judged as reprobates, including Calvinists, until they place their faith in Christ. Jesus stated at John 3:18: “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” Calvin, however, sees the Gospel as the means by which God distinguishes eternally elect sheep vs. eternally reprobate goats. That’s why Calvin taught that it should be of no concern if some reject the Gospel. After all, God allegedly didn’t create them for the purpose of salvation anyway, but rather for destruction.
Calvinist, Erwin Lutzer, writes: “Though we can see that believers will display the manifold wisdom of God, it is not clear to us how unbelievers will do so. We are told only that the wrath of man will praise God, and in Proverbs we read, ‘The Lord has made everything for its own purpose, even the wicked for the day of evil’ (16:4).” (The Doctrines That Divide, p.222, emphasis mine)
Calvin writes: “Solomon also teaches us that not only was the destruction of the ungodly foreknown, but the ungodly themselves have been created for the specific purpose of perishing (Prov. 16:4)” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries: Romans and Thessalonians, pp.207-208, emphasis mine)
Calvin adds: “At this point in particular the flesh rages when it hears that the predestination to death of those who perish is referred to the will of God.” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries: Romans and Thessalonians, p.208, emphasis mine)
While God indeed hardens men, the hardening is explicitly conditional: “‘Can I not, O house of Israel, deal with you as this potter does?’ declares the LORD. ‘Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel. At one moment I might speak concerning a nation or concerning a kingdom to uproot, to pull down, or to destroy it; if that nation against which I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent concerning the calamity I planned to bring on it. Or at another moment I might speak concerning a nation or concerning a kingdom to build up or to plant it; if it does evil in My sight by not obeying My voice, then I will think better of the good with which I had promised to bless it. So now then, speak to the men of Judah and against the inhabitants of Jerusalem saying, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, I am fashioning calamity against you and devising a plan against you. Oh turn back, each of you from his evil way, and reform your ways and your deeds.’”’” God is not the ogre that Calvinism makes Him out to be. God will destroy the unrepentant, sure enough, but His preference is that they turn and live. In defense, Calvinism offers a secret will theory, whereby God means one thing, but says the exact opposite. But what if God really does mean what He says, and that He really does take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn and live?