But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
Adrian Rogers comments: “God will have mercy upon whom He will have mercy, and He will have mercy upon him who uncovers his sin that God might cover it. He will have mercy upon the man that comes unto Him in faith, not by works of righteousness that we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us by the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Ghost. Yes...pardon is according to God’s sovereign will. God always wants to be merciful, but punishment is according to man’s sinful wickedness.” (Predestined For Hell? Absolutely Not!, Romans 9:1, emphasis mine)
Dave Hunt writes: “Furthermore, that righteousness cannot come by works is also irrelevant to free will. Those who believe in free will also affirm that man is ‘justified freely by His grace.’ But grace cannot be forced upon anyone or it would not be grace. Thus, it takes the power of choice for man to assent to God’s grace and to receive the gift of salvation God graciously offers.” (What Love is This?, p.233)
The trick for the Calvinist is to spin this passage to mean that ‘coming to Christ in faith’ is a work, and hence since salvation is not based upon works, salvation cannot hinge on our coming to Christ in faith.
Calvin writes: “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)
Calvin’s concept of a “predestination to death” being the “will of God” is inconsistent both with Scripture and himself:
John Calvin states: “For faith in Christ brings life to everyone, and Christ brought life because the Heavenly Father loves the human race and wishes that they should not perish.” (John: Calvin, The Crossway Classic Commentaries, p.76, emphasis mine)
So which is it? Which “John Calvin” are we to believe: the one that says that God loves the human race or the John Calvin that says that God predestined the majority of the human race to the Lake of Fire?
John Goodwin comments: “Can we say that a king or a prince is a lover of his kingdom...only because he loves two or three favourites about his court, especially when the generality and great body of his subjects are in imminent danger of perishing...unless he provides for their relief, and he in the midst of the greatest abundance of means to relieve them, and this without the least prejudice or hinderance to himself, shall altogether neglect them in their danger and misery? Doubtless there was never a prince or king, since the world began, that ever obtained the name or honour of a ‘lover of his subjects’ upon such terms as these. And yet they [Calvinists] make God a ‘lover of men’ in no other sense...that he loved only that small number of men which they call ‘his elect.’” (Redemption Redeemed, pp.134-135, emphasis mine)
God loves us because He is kind and merciful to “mankind,” and implores us not to call any man “unholy or unclean.” (Acts 10:28) Similarly, Paul proclaimed to the Athenian idol worshippers: “He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.’ Being then the children of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man.” (Acts 17:27-29) However, God has attached a condition for eternal life, which is, “that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”
Calvin also writes: “God will never find in us anything worthy of his love, but he loves us because he is kind and merciful.” (1 & 2 Timothy & Titus: Calvin, The Crossway Classic Commentaries, p.202, emphasis mine)
While on the one hand, Calvin states that “God will never find in us anything worthy of his love,” on the other hand, he states: “For what a childish quibble is the sophistry that we were not chosen because we were already worthy, but because God foresaw that we would be worthy. We are all lost in Adam; and therefore, had not God rescued us from perishing by His own election, there was nothing to be foreseen.” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries: Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians, p.125, emphasis mine) To explain the apparent contradiction, Calvinism teaches that those who allegedly reside eternally in the Father are “already worthy” because God deems them such by gratuitous sovereign grace, having determined beforehand to create them as such. However, the source of a Calvinist’s confidence does not stem from being in Christ, but from being eternally in the Father, which itself is erroneous, and therefore they have a false confidence due to a false Election. Don’t get me wrong. Christians are indeed in the Father, but only on account of being in Christ through faith in Him. (1st John 2:23-24)
Calvin thought that he was somehow especially loved by God, suitable and “worthy” for God to have sifted through the mass of humanity from before the foundation of the world and hand-pick him for salvation, and although neither he nor I may know exactly why he was deemed worthy of this honor, God, with eyes like a hawk, sure spotted it! Listen, God loves the whole world. Paul declared that we are all his “children” (by creation). We were created in the image of God, and God wants all men to be saved (1st Timothy 2:3-4), if we will only meet His established condition for eternal life, which He decreed at John 3:16: “…that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” Calvinists may argue that that’s a man-centered salvation, and they are certainly entitled to their sovereignty speculations, but if this is what God wants, then who are Calvinists to dictate to God?
John Calvin rightly explains: “Now it may be asked how men receive the salvation offered to them by the hand of God? I reply, by faith. Hence he concludes that here is nothing of our own. If, on the part of God, it is grace alone, and if we bring nothing but faith, which strips us of all praise, it follows that salvation is not of us. … When, on man’s side, he places the only way of receiving salvation in faith alone, he rejects all other means on which men are accustomed to rely. Faith, then, brings a man empty to God, that he may be filled with the blessings of Christ.” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries: Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians, p.144, emphasis mine)
The work of faith is an anti-work, being the polar opposite of a meritorious deed of self-honoring, self-righteousness. How many times did Paul contrast faith and works, only now at Titus 3:5 for Calvinists to suggest that faith in Christ would give a man a reason to boast before God?
Romans 3:27: “Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith.”
Romans 4:5: “But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness.”
Calvin writes: “First he points out the eternity of election, and then how we should think of it. Christ says that the elect always belonged to God. God therefore distinguishes them from the reprobate, not by faith, nor by any merit, but by pure grace; for while they are far away from him, he regards them in secret as his own.” (John: Calvin, The Crossway Classic Commentaries, p.393, emphasis mine)
So is Calvin negating his prior statement that a “grace alone” salvation is a “faith alone salvation”? Calvin was not exactly a model of consistency, and neither is Calvinism. Calvinists may profess the doctrine of Justification by Faith, but what they really teach is Justification by Election.
Titus 3:5-7: “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
That which was “poured out…richly” was “through Jesus Christ.” “Through Jesus Christ” naturally implies “through [faith] in Jesus Christ.”
Concerning faith, Calvin states: “…faith depends on God’s choice. Since the whole human race is blind and stubborn, those faults remain fixed in our nature until they are corrected by the grace of the Spirit, and that comes only from election. Two people may hear the same teaching together; yet one is willing to learn, and the other persists in his obstinacy. They do not differ in nature, but God illumines one and not the other.” (Acts: Calvin, Crossway Classic Commentaries, p.229, emphasis mine)
This is the doctrine of Preterition, otherwise known as Pass-By Calvinism.
If that’s the theology of the Apostles, passed down to the Saints, then why don’t we find such essential and foundational teaching, just as explicitly stated in the writings of the Apostles?
John Calvin comments on Titus 3:5-7: “In this sentence either the principal clause is that God saved us by his mercy, or it is incomplete. If that is the case it would be better to understand it as saying that people are changed for the better and made new because God had mercy on them. It is as if Paul had said: ‘You began to be different from others when God regenerated you by his Spirit.’ But since Paul’s words make sense as they stand, there is really no need to add to them. Paul includes himself along with the others so that his exhortation may be more efficacious.” (1 & 2 Timothy & Titus: Calvin, The Crossway Classic Commentaries, pp.201-202, emphasis mine)
It’s as if Calvin was disappointed that Paul had not elaborated it as such and such. Paul simply did not say what Calvin is inferring.
Calvinists love to “add.” For without it, you cannot get Calvinism. At each turn, it seems, Calvinists are adding to the Scripture, except at Ephesians 1:4 where “in Him” is subtracted. An eternal giving is inferred at John 6:37. An inward teaching is inferred at John 6:45. Eternal ordination is inferred at Acts 13:48. Foreknowledge at Acts 2:23 is masked as Determinism. God hating the nation of Edom, as per Malachi 1:1-4, is inferred to mean that God hated the individual, Esau, before the foundation of the world as a foreordained Reprobate. Changing hearts, rather than opening hearts, is inferred at Acts 16:14. And it is too great of a challenge to count how many times Calvinists infer “of the elect” throughout Scripture, such as at John 1:29, John 3:16, 1st Timothy 2:4 and 2nd Peter 3:9. To suggest that the Bible teaches Calvinism as is, is simply delusional. It is Assumiology.
Calvin adds: “For when he says not because of the righteous things we have done, he means that until God regenerates us we can do nothing but sin. … All their life people go further and further away from God, until God brings them back from their wanderings, into his own path. In short, Paul ascribes the fact that we, rather than others, have been chosen to participate in Christ as something that is entirely due to God’s mercy, since no deeds of righteousness existed in us.” (1 & 2 Timothy & Titus: Calvin, The Crossway Classic Commentaries, p.203, emphasis mine)
This is the Calvinist’s famous “to be” Election, as perpetrated at Ephesians 1:4, in which a detailed treatment of that practice is discussed. No one is chosen to salvation. Rather, we are called to salvation, and chosen in Christ. In Christ, you join the “chosen race.” (1st Peter 2:9) Our election with the Father stems from our position in His Son, as being identified with the THE Elect One, Christ.
When Paul states that “God our Savior…saved us” (Titus 3:4-5), it’s referring to what God the Father does for those who believe in His Son, which is to bestow “eternal life” (John 3:16) through the new birth of sanctification and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. When Paul speaks of the “deeds which we have done in righteousness” (Titus 3:5), he is not talking about faith in Christ, but is contrasting the self- righteous works of the Law, through which “shall no flesh be justified.” (Galatians 2:16) When Paul speaks of “mercy,” he is referring to the grace of Christ which abounds to all. (Romans 5:15)