Xenos Christian Fellowship
Christian Principles Unit 1

Soteriology: Calvinism & Arminianism; Trusting God's Providence




The central issue we want to study tonight is the interplay between God's sovereignty and human choice with regard to salvation. Do humans have free will to believe or reject the gospel? How should we understand the New Testament's statements about election and predestination?

Reminder: Some weeks have more immediate and obvious application than others. This is not one of those weeks . . . However, there is some practical application—like the implications for evangelism.

Doctrinal Overview


This term is actually a misnomer. Calvin did not emphasize predestination in his Institutes (only 4 chapters). Calvin warned against delving too deeply into this subject (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 21, section 1). However, it became the controlling principle in Reformed Theology, expressed by the Synod of Dort in 1618-1619.

Starting point for Calvinist/Reformed theology: God is sovereign and decrees certain things. 

(Isa. 46:10,11) …My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please. (11)… What I have said, that will I bring about; what I have planned, that will I do.

As a result of Adam's sin, people are born in a "depraved" state. This means that although people may do things that are good, they are constitutionally unable to submit themselves to the gospel.

(Rom. 3:11,12)  . . . there is none who seeks for God; all have turned aside, together they have become useless . . . 

(John 6:44, 65) No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.....(65)And He was saying, "For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me, unless it has been granted him from the Father."

Because of total depravity, salvation is completely dependent on God's choice to bestow it. For his own good reasons, God sovereignly chooses which individuals he will save. "Unconditional" in this context means that there are no conditions that humans must meet, including faith. Faith is a gift of God (ROM 12:3; Eph. 2:8). If human-generated faith plays a part in salvation, salvation is not entirely by grace.

(Eph. 1:4,5)  He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. (5) In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will . . . 

(1 Pet. 2:8)  . . . they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed.

(ROM 9:16,18,22-24)  So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy . . . (18) So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires . . . (22) What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? (23) And He did so in order that He might make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, (24) even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles.

"Double predestination" (also called reprobation) means that God predestines the elect to heaven, and that he predestines the non-elect to hell (2 Thess. 2:13; 1 Pet. 2:8; Jude 4; ROM 9:22,23).

(John Calvin) "…(God) does not create everyone in the same condition, but ordains eternal life for some and eternal damnation for others." (Cited in Alister McGrath, Christian Theology, p. 396)

Not all Calvinists believe in double predestination. Instead, they follow Augustine's teaching that God is active only in the salvation of the elect, while he is passive with regard to the non-elect.

Christ died for the purpose of saving only the elect. Calvinists infer this from the passages that say that Christ died "for his people" (Matt 1:21; John 10:11,15,26-27; John 15:13; Acts 20:28). Since God sovereignly elected some to salvation, he sent Christ to die only for them. Not all Calvinists hold to limited atonement.

God's grace in salvation includes imparting saving faith to the elect. This grace is irresistible since it does not depend on human will (ROM 9:16; Jn. 6:37,44,65; 15:16). God causes the elect to believe the gospel (Acts 13:48), even though they may not be aware of this fact.

(Jn. 6:37) All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.

(Acts 13:48) When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.

Because election depends on God, those who are elected cannot lose their salvation (i.e., eternal security). However, the elect will show evidence of their election by continuing to believe in Christ and manifesting good works consistent with salvation (2 Pet. 1:10; Heb. 3:6,14; Col. 1:23). This is the origin of "Lordship Theology" discussed last week.

(2 Pet. 1:10) Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble.

(Heb. 3:6,14) Christ was faithful as a Son over His house whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end . . . For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end.


Implications for Evangelism



"Since Christ has elected people to salvation, I can persevere in witnessing with the confidence that I will be fruitful." Bill Bright, and many other effective missionaries have been motivated in this way. "If God has already decided who will be saved and irresistibly calls them, does it really matter whether I witness or not?" This was the logic of those who told William Carey, "Sit down, young man! If God wants to save the people in India, he can well do so without your help."



Arminianism is named for Jacob Arminius (1560-1609), a Dutch theologian who strongly objected to the Reformed system described above—especially limited atonement. His position was published posthumously in the Remonstrance of 1610.

Starting point for Arminian theology: God wants all people to be saved.

(2 Pet. 3:9*) The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

(1 Tim. 2:4) (God) desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

Arminians agree that left to themselves, people are unable to respond to the gospel. However, God in his (prevenient or common) grace has enabled all people to respond to his convicting influence (John 12:32; 16:8)—he has given the gift of faith to everyone.

(Jn. 12:32) "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself."

(Jn. 16:8) "And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment . . . "

(Henry C. Thiessen) "Since mankind is hopelessly dead in trespasses and sins and can do nothing to obtain salvation, God graciously restores to all men sufficient ability to make a choice in the matter of submission to him. This is the salvation-bringing grace of God that has appeared to all men." (Henry C. Thiessen, Introductory Lectures in Systematic Theology [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1949], pp. 344-345).

God's election of people to salvation is conditioned upon their faith response to the gospel (Eph. 1:13; ROM 3:28). Arminians reject the claim that faith is a work, since faith merely receives the gift that God offers (ROM 4:4,5; Gal. 2:16).

(ROM 4:4,5) Now to the one who works, his wage is not reckoned as a favor, but as what is due. (5) But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness . . . 

Illustration: Having been handed a million dollar check, the Arminians would not state that it was work for you to go to the bank, endorse it, and to have it deposited into your account.

Both predestination and election are based on God's foreknowledge (presumably) of our decision to trust Christ (1 Pet. 1:1,2*; ROM 8:29).

(1 Pet. 1:1,2*) Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen (2) according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, that you may obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in fullest measure.

(ROM 8:29) For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren;

Christ died for the whole human race. Christ's atonement is therefore sufficient for all people, but effective only for those who believe (Jn. 1:29; 1 Jn. 2:2*; 2 Cor. 5:19; 1 Tim. 4:l0; Heb. 2:9).

(1 Jn. 2:2*) He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.

(2 Cor. 5:19) God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.

(1 Tim. 4:10) For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.

Illustration (continued): The above check is sufficient to cover your debt, but you must deposit it to your account.

It is God's will that all people be saved (1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet 3:9*; Ezek. 18:23). Therefore, God in his grace draws all people to himself (Jn. 12:32; 16:8). But scripture clearly teaches that humans are capable of resisting God's will (Mt. 23:37; Heb. 4:2; Lk. 7:29,30).

(Matt. 23:37) "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling."

(Luke 7:29,30) And when all the people and the tax-gatherers heard this, they acknowledged God's justice, having been baptized with the baptism of John. (30) But the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected God's purpose for themselves, not having been baptized by John.

Most Arminians do not believe in eternal security.  Like John Wesley, they believe that we can have present experiential assurance of our salvation—but that we could lose our salvation for various reasons. This was evidently Arminius' view as well. However, it is neither logically nor biblically necessary for Arminians to reject eternal security. In Xenos, we hold a moderately Arminian position while also believing in eternal security.

Implications for Evangelism



"I am motivated to share my faith because I know that more will be saved if I am faithful as Christ's ambassador." The logic of Arminianism makes it easy for Christians to believe that evangelism is both a privilege and a responsibility. "Evangelism is a heavy burden since my friend's salvation depends on my witness." Arminians need to be careful to fully emphasize God's will and non-Christians' responsibility as they evangelize. Unless we remember this, we can become unhealthily anxious, taking on more responsibility for people's salvation than is rightfully ours.

*Note to teachers: This lecture has been changed recently from being devoted entirely to the Calvinism-Arminianism debate. Now it defines the debate and refers people to the details on the Web (the content at the bottom of this document that begins ("passages Arminians must harmonize"). Now we teach a section on the practical outworkings of God's sovereignty/providence.


Applying Godís Sovereignty to our Spiritual Growth and Ministry: Trusting in Godís Providence

The Theology of Godís Providence

Remember Isa. 46:10,11 My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please. (11)What I have said, that will I bring about; what I have planned, that will I do.

God owns, rules, and sustains the creation

Ps. 24:1 The earth is the LORDís, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.

Ps. 115:3 But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases.

Ps. 95: 3 For the LORD is the great God, the great King above all gods.

Ps. 96:10 Say among the nations, ďThe LORD reigns. The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved.; He will judge the peoples with equity.

Ps. 99:1 The LORD reigns, let the nations tremble; he sits enthroned between the cherubim, let the earth shake.

Acts 14:15-17 You should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and all that is in them. 16 And in the generations gone by He permitted all the nations to go their own ways; 17 and yet He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good and gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.

Acts 17:24-27 The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.


God has the Final Say About World Events And Rulers

Ps 2:1-6 Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? 2 The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the LORD and against his Anointed One. 3 "Let us break their chains," they say, "and throw off their fetters."
4 The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. 5 Then he rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying, 6 "I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill."

Ps. 33:10,11 The LORD foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples. 11 But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.

The Book of Daniel
Daniel 1:1-2 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 2 And the Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the articles from the temple of God. These he carried off to the temple of his god in Babylonia and put in the treasure house of his god.

Daniel 2:20-21 Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever, For wisdom and power belong to Him. 21 And it is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings.

After interpreting the dream of the statue symbolizing four empires that would dominate Israel, Daniel adds,

Daniel 2:44 And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever.

Dan. 4:31-35 The words were still on his lips when a voice came from heaven, This is what is decreed for you, King Nebuchadnezzar: Your royal authority has been taken from you. 32 You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like cattle. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes... At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever. His dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation. 35 All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: "What have you done?"

Daniel 5 The Writing on the Wall
5:21 He [Nebuchadnezzar] was driven away from people and given the mind of an animal; he lived with the wild donkeys and ate grass like cattle; and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven, until he acknowledged that the Most High God is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and sets over them anyone he wishes. 22 But you his son, O Belshazzar, have not humbled yourself, though you knew all this. 23 Instead, you have set yourself up against the Lord of heaven, but you did not honor the God who holds in his hand your life and all your ways. 24 Therefore he sent the hand that wrote the inscription. 25 This is the inscription that was written:
MENE, MENE, TEKEL, PARSIN 26 This is what these words mean: Mene: God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end. 27 Tekel: You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting. 28 Peres: Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.

The Ultimate Example: The Death of Christ

Human beings made evil choices that resulted in the death of Jesus, but the did not have the last word. God used their evil choices for good by using Jesus death as His solution to our sin problem. God did not overrule their free will, but He did crush their plans.

Acts 2:23 ..this Man, delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. 24 And God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.

Acts 4:27, 28 For truly in this city there were gathered together against Thy holy servant Jesus, whom You did anoint, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur.

Satan is God's Devil

Even Satan is under God's ultimate sovereignty, and can do nothing that God has not allowed him to do.

Luke 22:31,32 32 "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; 32 but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers."

The End of Unsupervised Human History: The Book of Revelation

  • Godís right to rule (chapters 4 & 5)
  • Godís wrath unleashed (6-19)
  • The final judgment (11:15)

The Practical Outworking of Godís Providence:

God is so wise, loving and powerful that He can work in all situations-even through foolish & evil human choices-in such a way that His plan is advanced and our highest good is achieved. Human choices are not the final word!

Romans 8:28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

Eph. 1:11 ...according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will (which he said in 1:9 was to bring all things together under Christ).

Godís Providence and Your Life

If we understand Romans 8:28 (above) we realize that all persons and all situations in my life can be used by God as part of His wise design to develop me spiritually. Everything we go through can benefit us if we choose to cooperate with God. No person or situation can thwart Godís plan to make Himself known to & through you.

We tend to think:

If it was not for _____________, I would be an effective employee, student, teacher, leader, etc.

But in fact:

If it was not for _____________, I would lose an opportunity to be stretched spiritually.
_____ is Godís gift to me.

OT Examples of God's Providence:

Abraham & Jacob (Gen. 12-22; 27-33)

Joseph (Gen. 37-50)

Genesis 45:4-8 I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! 5 And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. 8 So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God.
Genesis 50:20 And as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.


2 Samuel 7:8 I took you from the pasture and from following the flock to be ruler over my people Israel. 9 I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have cut off all your enemies from before you. Now I will make your name great, like the names of the greatest men of the earth.
My times are in your hands" (Ps. 31:15). 31:22 "In my alarm I said, I am cut off from your sight."

Ps. 118:24 This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

David knew God intervenes through other people:
1 Samuel 25:32-33 God has sent you (Abigail) to meet meÖ David hears the voice of God in her words

Trusting Godís Sovereignty in various areas:

Struggling with fear

Thinking my wrong actions and those of others are the last word. See Ps. 27 & 46

Struggling with control

When I trust God's sovereignty, I don't have to get my way and manipulate people into doing what I want. I can trust that God may choose to work though different means and/or at a different time than I had in mind. When I try to control, I am acting as if I believe people can take away what God has promised me.

Reading the Word

If I trust in God's sovereignty, I will expect God to speak to me when I study the Bible rather than viewing it as just an intellectual process. I will be able to trust that He knows what I need to hear at this time in my life.


As with reading the Word, if I trust in God's sovereignty, I will expect to hear from God in prayer because He has a plan that He is unfolding to me. I will also know that even through I struggle in my prayer life and often don't know what to pray for, God is still committed to leading me. When my prayers are not answered, I will be open to the possibility that His plan is different and therefore better than what I had in mind. Because He is sovereign, He "puts things/people on our hearts."


The composition of our home group is not an accident. If I trust in God's sovereignty, I will view the people in my life as people God has brought to me so I can receive and give to them. SEE 1 COR 12:21
A sense of "compatibility" will not be my main concern. People that are different from me and difficult for me are God's tools to shape my character. I will also realize that God sends people to me to teach me and correct me. I can lower my defensiveness when I realize God may be speaking to me through them.


Conflict is seen as much vertically as it is horizontally. Without the perspective of God's sovereignty, a conflict is me vs. you and me proving I'm right. It is about me winning. I must control or be controlled. If I trust in God's sovereignty, I don't have to win and defend because God can teach me through conflict even if the other person is wrong and misunderstands me.


If I trust in God's sovereignty, I will have the hope that God will bring good out my suffering-even if I don't see it at the time.



Because of God's sovereignty, we are never helpless victims.


If I trust in God's sovereignty, I know that God wants to lead me into His plan and that He knows what I could contribute. He is committed to giving me a significant and purposeful life. Without this perspective, we tend to view His guidance as empowering for our own agenda. As a result, our career becomes a substitute for playing our role in the Body of Christ.


Without a perspective on God's sovereignty, we will increase our attempts to control as we feel threatened--or withdraw in defeat.

Our Service to God (Ministry).
Our service to God is not something we make happen or force (Mt. 28:18, 20).
Do we think about and rely on Matt. 16:18? There Jesus declares, "I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not withstand it.?

Evangelism: Without God's sovereignty, it is me trying to get someone to buy into a quirky belief system that could inconvenience and offend them. If I trust in God's sovereignty, I know that God wants to reach people and is able to orchestrate events so that seekers and I cross paths.

Discipleship (investing personally in another Christian to equip them for service).

Without God's sovereignty, discipleship can be very intimidating for some and an opportunity for control for others.
Hope and vision (rather than discouragement) is based on the belief that God is committed and active in the disciples' live and in the discipler's. This gives the discipler the patience to invest over the long haul.


Failure is part of our training and spiritual history. Without God's sovereignty, failure is simply wasted effort and an area of shame. Failure is avoided, and when encountered, is often denied. We also look to blame others.

Sanders provides an encouraging summary of God's Providential Care:

The God of Jacob is preeminently the God of the second chance to Christians who have failed and failed persistently.
The second chance does not avert the consequences of past failure, but even failure can be a steppingstone to new victories. To the child of God failure can have an important educative value. God does not waste even failure.

The outstanding lesson of Jacobís life is that no failure need be final. There is hope with the God of Jacob for any disposition or temperament. No past defeat puts future victory out of reach. When God has saved and apprehended a person, He pursues him with undiscourageable perseverance that He might bless him. God will turn the tables on the Devil by creating a wider ministry out of our very defeats. --J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Maturity


Passages Arminians Must Harmonize

The following passages are interpreted differently by Calvinists and Arminians. We believe that the passages teaching the Arminian position are clearer, and that it is easier to harmonize the following passages with this position than it is to harmonize passages supporting Arminianism with the Calvinistic perspective.

(Jn. 6:37)   "All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out."

Calvinists argue that this passage teaches irresistible grace. The individual cannot refuse God's choice. Therefore, all those given to Christ will respond.

Arminians reply that "those given to me" in vs. 37 are the same as those who "believe in him" in vs. 40. In other words, when God foresees that some will believe, he gives them to Christ. See that in vs. 45, those who have "heard and learned from the Father" are the ones who "come to me."

(Jn. 6:44,65) "No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day" . . .(65) And He was saying, "For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me, unless it has been granted him from the Father."

Calvinists usually hold that these passages teach total depravity and unconditional election, and also imply limited atonement and double-predestination. This is because:

"no one can come to me unless. . ." because they are totally depraved.

". . .it has been granted him from the Father," or ". . .the Father draws him," meaning unconditional election. Unconditional in this case, because the cause is the Father, not the individual.

Limited atonement and double-predestination are usually inferred from the fact that it is impossible to come to Christ without election. Therefore, those whom the Father has not drawn are naturally destined for judgment and are therefore those for whom Christ did not die.

Arminians agrees that these passages teach total depravity. However, they argue the Father draws all men to Christ (Jn. 12:32; 16:8).

They further hold that to assign the cause exclusively to the Father ignores vss. 29,35,40,47. To attribute the cause exclusively to the Father regardless of the response of the person flies in the face of the stated will of the Father in vs. 40 that "every one who beholds the Son and believes in him" be saved.

Finally, with regard to limited atonement and double-predestination, these are positions which depend on the earlier conclusion (unconditional election), and therefore beg the question.

(Jn. 15:16) "You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He may give to you."

Some Calvinists view this passage as a proof text for unconditional election, emphasizing the irrelevance of human choice.

Arminians point out that the statement is made to the disciples with reference to their apostleship, not to their salvation. This interpretation accords well with the next phrase "that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain. . ." See also Jn. 6:70 referring to the same choice. Clearly, Judas was chosen, but not saved.

(Acts 13:48)  And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.

Calvinists hold that this teaches unconditional election.

Arminians point out that the participle translated "had been appointed to" (tetagmenoi) is the middle-passive voice form of tasso.

In Greek, the same form is used to designate both the middle voice and the passive voice. The NASB translates it in the passive voice (the subject receives the action). However, if it is translated in the middle voice (the subject initiates the action), the passage would read ". . .as many as set themselves to eternal life believed." This translation resolves the difficulty.

The context (see vs 46) indicates that Luke intended the middle voice in verse 48. In vs. 46, Paul says of the Jews, "…you repudiate it (the gospel), and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life." Luke is purposefully contrasting the Jews' response to that of the Gentiles, who "began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had set themselves to eternal life believed."

Because of this grammatical ambiguity, neither view should base its position on this passage.

(ROM 9:1-24)

Calvinists normally hold that ROM 9 teaches unconditional election and double-predestination.

Vs. 16 ". . It [God's choice] does not depend on the man who wills. . ."

Vs. 18 refers to double-predestination.

Vss. 22,23 refer to "vessels of wrath prepared for destruction" and "vessels of mercy prepared beforehand for glory."

Vs. 24: The election involved is not a national election because vs. 24 states that the vessels of mercy are "us, whom he called not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles" (i.e., believing Christians).

Arminians argue that the first part of ROM 9 deals with God's choice of nations and their roles in his plans.

Vss. 1-5 make it clear that the context is that of national choice.

Vss.  6,7: This is confirmed in vss. 6,7 because all Israelites were not saved, and all Ishmaelites were not damned.

Vs. 13: Paul cites Mal. 1:2, in which God says that he favors the nation of Israel over the nation of Edom. Furthermore, the phrase "I hate/I love" is a Hebrew idiom meaning "I do not favor/I favor" (see Luke 14:26-hate father and mother).

Vs. 16 refers to God's choice of how to lead the nation of Israel through the wilderness, which was independent of Moses' will in the matter. Personal salvation is not in view in the original passage (Ex. 33:19).

Vs. 18 is in the context of vs. 16 (see above) and vs. 17, which refers to God's temporal destruction of the Egyptians when they wanted to destroy Israel. The verse teaches that God caused his choice of Israel to stand regardless of Moses' attempts to help or Pharaoh's attempts to hinder. Neither Moses' nor Pharaoh's personal salvation was in view in these passages.

Vss. 21-23 refer to nations which have either a glorious or judgmental role in history. Two interpretations are possible:

God allows evil nations to exist and often uses them to bless the chosen nation Israel. Today, believers are able to participate in the covenant blessings of Israel because they have been "grafted into the rich root" of God's purpose in history.

Another explanation is that the "lump of clay" in vs. 21 refers to national Israel. God has the right to divide Israel into two vessels: unbelieving Israel, which has become a "vessel of wrath prepared ("fit" or "suited") for destruction," and believing Israel which, along with Gentile believers, has become a "vessel of mercy."

Note: Any interpretation of Rom. 9 must account for the transition that Paul makes from national choice in vss. 1-24 and individual salvation in vss. 24-33. Therefore, neither view can claim that the other is completely out of context. The question becomes one of which transition is more believable, and makes the most sense of the Old Testament quotations.

(Gal. 1:15,16) But when He who had set me apart, even from my mother's womb, and called me through His grace, was pleased to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood . . .

Calvinists interpret this passage to mean that God irresistibly called Paul because he was elected to salvation. They further argue that Paul's salvation is typical of all Christians in this regard.

Arminians would point out that Paul's election and calling were based on God's foreknowledge of Paul's decision to believe. Some Arminians acknowledge that Paul may have been unconditionally elected and irresistibly called by God, but point out that this does not prove that God deals with all people in this way. There is no reason to think that God cannot deal with some people differently than others. Arminians would argue that the burden is on the Calvinist to demonstrate not just that God elected someone unconditionally, but that he elects all Christians in this way.

(Eph. 1:4,5) . . . just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will . . .

Calvinists cite this passage as teaching unconditional election.

God "chose us. . .before the foundation of the world." He "has predestined us to adoption as sons. . .according to the kind intention of His will." These phrases are taken to mean that God has sovereignly decided in advance who will be saved, completely irrespective of human choice.

Arminians agree that vs. 4 is teaching God's election of the believer to salvation.

However, they call attention to the significance of the phrase "in Him." This phrase, it is argued, means that Christ was the chosen One (Is. 42:1) and that believers corporately participate in his chosenness because they are baptized into him when they believe (1 Cor. 12:13; Eph. 1:13).

With regard to vs. 5, Arminians hold that this passage is referring not to God's choice of who will be saved, but of God's choice that those who believe will be ultimately glorified. They interpret "adoption as sons" as a reference to the glorification of believers (cf. Rom. 8:23 for Paul's use of "adoption" in this way).

Arminians also insist that God's election and predestination are based on his foreknowledge of our choice to believe in Christ (1 Pet. 1:1,2*; Rom. 8:29).

(2 Thess. 2:13) But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.

Calvinists interpret this passage to teach unconditional election.

Arminians point out that "from the beginning" could refer to the beginning of their Christian lives (i.e., conversion). Paul uses this same phrase in Phil. 4:15 to refer to people's conversion. If the term "salvation" refers to glorification (see vs. 14) or spiritual maturity (1 Thess. 5:23), Paul is simply reminding them of God's purpose for their lives.

(1 Pet. 2:8) . . . and, "A STONE OF STUMBLING AND A ROCK OF OFFENSE"; for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed.

Some Calvinists find support for double-predestination in this passage. God appointed certain people to "doom" and therefore they rejected Christ.

Arminians point out that the specific cause for their stumbling is not God, but that "they are disobedient to the word." Peter is not saying that God made them disobey, or that they cannot repent. He is simply saying that God has ordained judgment for those who reject the gospel.


(Jude 1:4) For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

Calvinists hold that this passage teaches double-predestination. The false teachers were "long ago marked out [by God] for. . .condemnation."

Arminians point out that the participle "previously marked out" (progegrammenoi) can also be translated "previously written about." For an example of this usage, see Rom. 15:4. Since Jude goes on to cite several recorded examples of the destruction of ungodly persons (vss. 5-18), this translation is seen as preferable.


The Bible clearly teaches God's sovereign choice of nations for specific roles (Ezek. 38:4; Ps. 33:10; Ps. 2:1-6), and even of individuals for the roles they play in his national strategy (Isa. 45:1; Dan. 4:32,34-35). Other passages clearly teach that God sovereignly decides what spiritual gifts we get (1 Cor. 12:11), and our specific ministry callings (Gal. 1:15,16).

Christians should not break fellowship with one another over whether they are Arminian or Calvinist. We use many excellent theological texts that are written by Calvinists (e.g., Millard Erickson, Christian Theology). It is instructive that Francis Schaeffer makes no mention of this issue in any of his many books. Commitment to the work of evangelism and missions is more important than one's position on this issue.

Memory Verses

1 Peter 1:1b-2* - Election is based on God's foreknowledge (evidently of who chooses to believe in Christ).

1 John 2:2* - Jesus Christ died for the sins of the whole world, not just of believers.

2 Peter 3:9* - God's will is for all people to be saved.


Read Revelation 19:11-21:8, and draw a timeline that locates each of these events in the order that John describes them.

Read the historical background material for Daniel.

Selected Bibliography

Berkhof, Louis. Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing, pp. 415-549. (Calvinist)

Erickson, Millard. Christian Theology. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, pp. 907-928. (Moderate Calvinist)

Forster, Roger T. and Marston, V. Paul. God's Strategy in Human History. Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, 1973. (Moderate Arminian)

Murray, John. Redemption Applied and Accomplished. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1989. (Calvinist)

Packer, J. I. Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God. Downers Grove: Inter Varsity Press, 1961. (Calvinist)

Pinnock, Clark, ed. Grace Unlimited. Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1975. (Moderate Arminian)

Shank, Robert. Elect in the Son. Springfield, Mo.: Westcott Publishers, 1970. (Arminian)

Thiessen, Henry C. Introductory Lectures in Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing, 1983. (Moderate Arminian)

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