Romans 1:16

Romans 1:16 (see also Hebrews 4:12John 6:63James 1:21)
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

SBC Issues: “According to the consistent calvinist, the gospel is the power of God unto salvation not for everyone who believes, but for all that God gives the ability to believe. Apart from God’s efficacious grace and His effectual calling, NO ONE WILL BELIEVE AND BE SAVED.” (Calvinism is an Abominable Theological Position)

Calvinists believe that the Gospel only has “power” to reach sinners if it is accompanied by an Irresistible Grace, absent of which, the Gospel has Total Inability to reach sinners, and is simply no match for the dynamite power of Total Depravity. So, then, how is the Gospel likened to dynamite at all, if it is not even a fire-cracker or a sparkler, without Irresistible Grace? Obviously, then, the real dynamite power is in Irresistible Grace itself. While Calvinists affirm the dynamite power of the Gospel, they do so only because the Bible says so, and thus are forced to admit it, however logically so. Indeed, the more pressing issue to a Calvinist is the unregenerate state and fallen nature of man, who considers God’s Word to be mere foolishnessFor the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1st Corinthians 1:18) But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. (2nd Corinthians 2:14) However, these things are so, only because the unregenerate man does not value the things of God, and cannot fathom its worth, because he does not even believe that he possesses a soul to begin with. The power of the Gospel, however, stirs a man’s conscience and puts the fear of God in him, and shows him the only true hope for salvation. (Compare with Acts 24:25 in which an unregenerate governor named Felix became frightened.”) 

One Calvinist explains: The gospel is the power of God unto salvation. It is the means through which God accomplishes His good work in us. I would agree that the gospel doesn’t save by itself, but must be accompanied by the power of the Holy Spirit working through the Word of God.

Paraphrased it means: The gospel is the power of God unto salvation. It is the means through which God accomplishes His good work in us. I would agree that the gospel doesn’t save by itself, but must be accompanied by [Irresistible Grace].

Thus, as one person concludes, “For the consistent Calvinist, the Gospel call by itself is either powerless (without the secret inner call), irrelevant (because God will regenerate anyway), or both. God does not require the Gospel as a preordained means to a preordained end’ if He has already predetermined to regenerate. The Gospel just becomes a pantomime.

​Question: Does God preemptively change a person’s heart from unregenerate to regenerate (i.e. Born Again), in order to positively respond to Christ, or does God instead operate upon the old, unregenerate heart in order to enable him to respond?

Answer: Calvinists have a tendency to ignore the implications of their arguments. They will insist that God must use an Irresistible Grace because unregenerate man is so depraved, while ignoring the implication of must. Why must God do this? Is He incapable of overcoming their depravity by any other means? What does it say about the power of the Gospel, or the conviction of the Holy Spirit?

​Question: Can the “power” of the Gospel impact the unregenerate lost?

Answer: God’s word is spirit and life (John 6:63), is living and active (Hebrews 4:12), is able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation (2nd Timothy 3:15), converts the soul (Psalm 19:7), and dispenses faith to those who hear it preached. (Romans 10:17) Therefore, are we to suppose that these verses only apply to regenerated believers?

​Question: Does the “power” of the Gospel only apply to a regenerated believer, rather than an unregenerate unbeliever?

Answer: First, Arminians deem the “things of the Spirit” as the deep things of the Spirit, rather than the plain milk of the Gospel, and that those who are “perishing” are those who have a hardened heart of pride for having persistently rejected the Gospel. Second, Arminians teach that Prevenient Grace, as opposed to Irresistible Grace, is a combination of the illuminating Light of the power of the Gospel and the spiritual Sight of the Holy Spirit who convicts unregenerate hearts of their sin.

John Calvin: “The Gospel is indeed offered to all for their salvation, but its power is not universally manifest.” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries: Romans and Thessalonians, p.27, emphasis mine) 

The power of the Gospel is universally manifest. Does it not convict the world of its sin? (John 16:8) While they may not repent, it does pierce the heart with the guilt of sin. (Acts 2:37) The power of the Gospel dispenses faith to all who hear it, without qualification. (Romans 10:17) As “living and active”  (Hebrews 4:12), it judges the thoughts and intentions of the heart, whether someone repents or not. There is no question whether the Gospel still has power if someone should still refuse to repent. The issue is whether the “power” ends there, stops there and comes to an otherwise tire-screeching halt, being allegedly, utterly powerless to indiscriminately bring any unregenerate lost person to the point where they are therefore enabled to make a decision to repent of their sin and receive salvation from the hand of God, due to the guilt instilled by the Spirit, and the faith produced by hearing of the Gospel. To deny that the Gospel has the power to indiscriminately enable any unregenerate lost person to repent of their sin in order to save their soul (James 1:21), is to deny the true extent of the power of the Gospel.

John Calvin comments on John 15:3: “He is undoubtedly speaking about external preaching, because he specifically mentions ‘the word I have spoken to you.’ Not that words spoken by humans have such a great effect, but when Christ works in the heart by the Spirit, ‘the word’ itself is the instrument of cleaning.” (John: Calvin, The Crossway Classic Commentaries, p.354, emphasis mine) 

John Calvin: “Certainly the human voice cannot by its own power penetrate the soul. Too much honour would be paid to a mere mortal if it were said that he had power to regenerate us. The light of faith also is too exalted to be able to be conferred by man. But all these things do not prevent God from acting effectually by the voice of man, so as to create faith in us by his ministry.” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries: Romans and Thessalonians, pp.232-233, emphasis mine) 

However, when you preach the Gospel, with their ears, the lost may hear your voice, but in their heart, they feel Jesus knocking. God works through the preaching of the Gospel.

John Calvin: “The minister’s teaching and speaking does no good unless God adds his inward calling to it. ... Preaching alone is just a dead letter, and we must beware lest a false imagination, or the semblance of secret illumination, leads us away from the Word on which faith depends.” (Acts: Calvin, The Crossway Classic Commentaries, p.278, emphasis mine)

John Calvin: “For as in His creation of the world God has poured forth upon us the brightness of the sun and has also given us eyes with which to receive it, so in our redemption He shines forth upon us in the person of His Son by His Gospelbut that would be in vain, since we are blind, unless He were also to illuminate our minds by His Spirit. Thus his meaning is that God has opened the eyes of our understanding by His Spirit to make us able to receive the light of His Gospel.” (Calvin’s Commentaries: II Corinthians, Timothy, Titus, Philemon, p.57, emphasis mine) 

Does this cheapen the inherent power of the Gospel?

John Calvin: “Preaching only finds faith in people when God inwardly calls those he has chosen and draws to Christ those who were already his own (John 6:37).” (Acts: Calvin, Crossway Classic Commentaries, p.229, emphasis mine)

John Calvin: “In a word, Paul indicates that all clamorous sounding of the human voice will lack effectunless the virtue of God works internally in the heart.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.104, emphasis mine)

In other words, according to Calvin, the preaching of the Gospel is clanging symbols if the hearer is not preemptively made born again in order to believe. Perhaps Calvin has forgotten that Hebrews 4:12 teaches that God’s Word is “living and active,” and dispenses “faith” in its hearers. (Romans 10:17)

John Calvin: Now let Pighius asseverate that God wills all to be saved, when not even the external preaching of the doctrine, which is much inferior to the illumination of the Spirit, is made common to all.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.109, emphasis mine)

Apparently, to Calvin, the power of the Gospel is triggered only by regenerative Irresistible Grace.

However, those who believe come to know the Gospel for what it truly is, namely, the power of God. They experience this fact, and it changes their life, whereas unbelievers remain blind to the spiritual world around them, even though God has still made Himself evident to them, such that they are without any excuse. (Romans 1:18-20) The lost remain blind to the fact that they have a soul, that God created them, and that God has never taken His eye off of them. Their blindness, however, doesn’t change the fact that the apparent “foolishness” of Gospel has the power to save their soul.

1st Corinthians 1:18-25: For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.’ Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 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. For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 

So how come unbelievers fail to see the Gospel for what it truly is, that is, the power of God? How come they fail to tap into this “power”? The answer is because of the very thing upon which God warned us not to do: Harden not your heart. (Psalm 95:8, KJV) However, what you are going to find from Calvin is a denial of the power of the Gospel. He will insist that the law of the power of the Gospel is utterly powerless in the face of the all-consuming, all-powerful Law of the Total Depravity of man, such that unless God first unilaterally acts to secretly transform a person into a born again, faith-induced new creature, they will never in a million years be able to receive it.

John Calvin: “Because God does not work effectually in all men, but only when the Spirit shines in our hearts as the inward teacher, he adds to every one that believeth.” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries: Romans and Thessalonians, p.27, emphasis mine) 

Calvin lays the groundwork of his defense of Calvinism by stating that God “effectually” works, that is, unilaterally regenerates by means of the Holy Spirit, only some, and it is these alone who are thereby enabled to believe. Calvin suggests that the Gospel contains power only for those that are pre-loaded with faith in the alleged, Preemptive Regeneration.

John Calvin: “The Gospel is indeed offered to all for their salvation, but its power is not universally manifest.” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries: Romans and Thessalonians, p.27, emphasis mine) 

According to Calvin, what is universally manifest is the all-surpassing depravity of man, while the saving power of the Gospel is only marginally manifest. If Calvin truly believed in the power of the Gospel, he would recognize that a pre-emptive regeneration is rendered unnecessary in the face of the power of the “living and active” Gospel (Hebrews 4:12) in combination with the universal conviction of the Holy Spirit (John 16:8) and universal “draw” of Christ. (John 12:32) But he disputes each of these points, teaching that only those of the Calvinistically elect are: 1) given access to the power of the Gospel, 2) receive an irresistible conviction by the Holy Spirit, and 3) are irresistibly drawn to Christ. Since Calvin rejects a universal power of the Gospel, a universal conviction of the Holy Spirit and the universal draw of Christ, he is left with no other solution for the depravity of man except “Regenerative Grace” which, accordingly, is pre-determined by “Elective Grace.” So Calvinism operates in a chain of events, from Elective Grace to Atoning Grace to Irresistible Grace to Persevering Grace.

John Calvin: “The fact that the Gospel is the taste of death to the ungodly arises not so much from the nature of the Gospel itself, as from their own wickedness.” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries: Romans and Thessalonians, p.27, emphasis mine) 

John Calvin: “The Gospel is the power of God for salvation to all that believe (Romans 1:16) But what can it be for others but a savour of death to death? As he elsewhere says (II Cor 2:16).” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.103, emphasis mine)  

The Gospel is the “savour of death” to the lost insomuch as they fall under the weight and pressure of the conviction of the Holy Spirit. (John 16:8) After all, how do the perishing come to this feeling except by the faith instilled by the Gospel, just as Romans 10:17 teaches? Now they have a choice. Either repent and submit to God, and feel the pressure of the Holy Spirit become lifted, or remain rebelliously in denial and become bitterly hardened by the overwhelming conviction of the Holy Spirit. 

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)

Where Calvin is headed is the allegation that while there is a universal, general invitation, there is also a secret, special, and effectual VIP invitation for those of the alleged, eternal flock of the Father? To Calvin, the Gospel superficially invites all, while irresistibly inviting only a “certain number.” This way, all are held accountable...somehow. 

​Question: The thing to keep in mind concerning the power of the Gospel & Calvinism, is that Calvinism teaches that before a person is made capable of believing in the Gospel, he must first be made Born Again. Therefore, where is the real power, according to Calvinism: The Gospel or Irresistible Grace?

Answer: To Calvinism, it would be Irresistible Grace, but according to the Bible, it would be the power of the Gospel which dispenses faith. (Romans 10:17)

Therefore, a more Calvinistic understanding of Romans 1:16 would be as follows: For I am not ashamed of Regenerative Grace, for it is the power of God for salvation. Amazingly, Calvin admitted as much!

John Calvin: Now let Pighius asseverate that God wills all to be saved, when not even the external preaching of the doctrine, which is much inferior to the illumination of the Spirit, is made common to all.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.109, emphasis mine)

So, then, why, doesnt Paul ever talk about the power of Preemptive Regeneration like he does about the power of the Gospel?

​Calvinists like Charles Spurgeon commented that Calvinism is just a nickname for the Gospel, but if that is so, then all non-Calvinists must be rejecting the Gospel, and then logically speaking, only Calvinists can be saved.

Dave Hunt: “If the gospel is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes it (Romans 1:16), and if the five points of Calvinism comprise the very heart of the gospel, non-Calvinists cannot be saved. While many Calvinists would deny such a conclusion, it follows logically from the many statements we have already quoted by its leaders that Calvinism is the gospel and true Christianity.” (What Love is This?, p.238)

Question:  Do Calvinists merely play lip-service to the dynamite “power” of the Gospel, while effectively reducing it to a ninety-pound weakling in the face of the two-ton gorilla of Total Depravity?

Answer:  Arminians pointedly ask the Calvinist whether the “power” of the Gospel is capable of convicting any unregenerate sinner of their sin? Even in the worst case, where God has actively hardened someone because of their own hard heart, is the “power” of the Gospel capable of convicting them of their sin? Is the “power” of the Gospel capable of persuading any sinner to repent of their sin?