As a class assignment for my History Of Christianity class, I have the privilege tomorrow of answering the question "what must I do to be saved?" from the Calvinist point of view. The following is the approach that I'll be giving, it's very condensed and there's much more to say about the issue, much more Scripture that could be given, and I only deal with the first 2 doctrines of the 5 points of Calvinism here. But it's going to be an initial introduction to Calvinism for most of the people that I will be talking to tomorrow. Here it is.
A man once asked the apostle Paul "What must I do to be saved?" His reply was simple and straightforward, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved." (Acts 16:30-31)
The message of Scripture is clear from cover to cover that it is faith that justifies a sinner before God.
Romans 1:17 tells us that "The righteous shall live by faith."
Romans 3:26 tells us that God is "just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus."
An Old Testament example is found in Genesis 15:6 where speaking of Abraham it says "And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness."
Many, many more examples could be given like these that tell us God saves men by their faith in Him. Faith in the Lord Jesus is the only condition for salvation that Scripture gives for salvation. Most Protestants agree with such a statement (though not all), so what separates the Calvinist in his doctrine? The Calvinist believes that while one must place their faith in Christ for salvation, because of sin that entered the world in Genesis 3, people have become so depraved by sin that it is impossible for man to have genuine faith in Christ.
Look at Romans 1:18-32 for an overview of the effect sin has had on mankind.
"18For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
24Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
26For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. 28And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them."
And also in Romans 3:10-18,
"10as it is written: "None is righteous, no, not one;11no one understands;no one seeks for God.12All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;no one does good,not even one."13 "Their throat is an open grave;they use their tongues to deceive." "The venom of asps is under their lips."14 "Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness."15 "Their feet are swift to shed blood;16in their paths are ruin and misery,17and the way of peace they have not known."18 "There is no fear of God before their eyes."
The dilemma of mankind is that we are so darkened in our hearts and minds because of sin that we are unable to know or find God, nor do we even desire to seek Him. As the Scripture says, "no one seeks for God." If God were simply to have offered Christ as He did and then left it up to man to choose Jesus Christ as their savior, all of us would be going to Hell, because people are enslaved to sin, inherently opposed to God and the things of God as long as they are apart from Christ.
About this Romans 8:7-8 tells us "7For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8Those who are in the flesh cannot please God."
The context of this verse is clear, all who are apart from Christ are in the flesh, opposed to God. So I ask you, is mankind’s will truly free as we think of free will? No it is not. The will of man is enslaved to sin. People on their own free will as we call it would never choose God because of sin.
Now it is true that man does that which he most wants to do, there is no doubt. When we sin there is no one forcing us to sin, we did it because it was our strongest desire at that time. But the question is, where did that desire come from? It came from our sinful nature that mankind inherited at the fall. So we are not free as we think of free, we simply do that which we most want to do and it appears to be a free action, but our will is bound to sin as unbelievers.
Therefore I’ll say it again, man cannot, will not, and does not want to choose Christ. If God were to let man do that what in his so called "free will" he most wanted to do then all would choose to live in their sin and all would die and go to Hell.
Therefore if any are to be saved it depends not on the free choice of man, because man’s choice is not truly free, but rather on the free choice of God to save those whom He chooses.
Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us "8For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast."
Salvation from God is a gift that He freely gives. He grants sinners His grace and the gift of faith so that they may believe. It is a misnomer that man has faith to give, rather God supplies the faith with which to believe. God chooses those whom He desires to show His mercy to and He gives them saving faith.
Look with me at Romans 9:6-24.
6But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, 7and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but "Through Isaac shall your offspring be named." 8This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. 9For this is what the promise said:
"About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son." 10And not only so, but
also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— 12she was told, "The older will serve the younger." 13As it is written, "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated."
14What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." 16So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. 17For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." 18So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. 19You will say to me then, "Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?" 20But who are you, O man, to answer back to God?
Will what is molded say to its molder, "Why have you made me like this?" 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?"
Before either Jacob or Esau had done anything that could be called "good or bad" God chose Jacob and placed His love and favor upon him but Esau received God’s "hate" as it is said, he did not receive God’s favor rather His condemnation. Paul expects people to react against this and say it is not fair. This is where Paul says that God is the potter and we are the clay and He can make out of the same lump of clay whatever He as the potter wishes, that is His right as the Creator. He will have mercy on whom He will have mercy. And if God chooses to harden someone’s heart and use them as an example of His power as He did Pharaoh, He can do that to.
It’s helpful to remember that what all people deserve because of their rebellion against God is death and Hell, therefore the fact that God chooses to intervene in the life of a sinner who by nature hates God, is a pure and wonderful act of grace and mercy on God’s part.
So then in the midst of this conversation about salvation we see the Scripture says in 9:16 "So then it depends not on human will or exertion,
but on God, who has mercy."
Scripture emphasizes time and again that God chooses us and not the other way around. Look at Ephesians 1:3-6
"3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved."
The only hope mankind has for salvation is the grace and mercy of Christ to intervene on our behalf, because otherwise we will do just what we want, live in sin, and we’ll get just what we deserve, we’ll go to Hell. If you are a believer you should praise God that He had mercy on you and gave you faith to trust Him with.
This covers briefly only the first 2 doctrines of the 5 that make up the 5 points of Calvinism (A.K.A. the doctrines of Grace) if you desire to have a fuller explanation of these 2 (Total Depravity and Unconditional Election) and the last three not mentioned here (Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and Perseverance of the Saints) you can go to www.reformationapologetics.com, on "Biblical Christianity" and then click on "The Doctrines of Grace."