You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? So then, does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Even so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.
Calvinism teaches that people must first have the Holy Spirit, and receive Regeneration (i.e. being made preemptively Born Again), so that the Calvinistically-elect will irresistibly believe the Gospel. But notice, here, that the Holy Spirit is received “by hearing with faith.” To a Calvinist, though, the Holy Spirit is received by special election, so that the lost would hear with faith. So this passage contradicts Calvinism.
One member of The Society of Evangelical Arminians comments: “Strikingly, in this passage that is meant to be decisive for his letter’s whole argument, Paul hangs his theology of salvation by grace through faith on the Galatians’ experience of the Spirit, asking them if they received the Spirit by works of the law or by faith. Calvinists assert that the Spirit must regenerate a person before he can believe. This passage not only avoids any mention of such a notion, but actually undermines it. The passage expressly indicates that it is by faith that people receive the Spirit, reinforcing that Union with Christ and the indwelling of the Spirit are conditioned on faith. Since the only means whereby a person receives Christ’s newness of life (regeneration) is through Union with Christ, then regeneration itself is dependent upon faith. There is no life apart from Christ’s life, and no one share’s Christ’s life except through Union with Christ, and no one is united with Christ apart from faith. Calvinists have a very narrow view of regeneration, one that fails to appreciate regeneration as a sharing of Christ’s newness of life, and one that completely re-writes John 3:16 to say that God so loved (the elect) that he gave his only Son that (those who are irresistibly called) receive eternal life, enabling them to believe on him and not perish. Galatians 3:1-6 assumes a correct reading of John 3:16, that is, those who believe receive life, as it affirms that a person receives the life-giving Spirit through faith.” (SEA, emphasis mine)
So what can a Calvinist say in response?
John Calvin comments: “The Spirit I take here for the grace of regeneration, which is common to all believers; though I do not mind if anyone understands it of the special gifts with which the Lord then adorned the preaching of the Gospel.” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries: Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians, p.48, emphasis mine)
So here is how Calvin’s substitution impacts the apostle Paul’s question:
“Did you receive [the grace of regeneration] by the works of the Law, or [did you receive the grace of regeneration] by hearing with faith?”
If the “grace of regeneration” is given upon faith, then Calvinists would be hard-pressed to make faith given upon the grace of regeneration. Here is how Calvinists would have to answer Paul’s question:
“Neither, but that we received the Spirit by an Effectual Call, through which we receive faith.”
So if Paul was a Calvinist, why didn’t he write like a Calvinist?