Letter to a Calvinist
Thank you for your wonderful letter. I am refreshed to find people still searching for answers from God’s Holy Word, so much so that they do not take a man’s word for it. I do not ask you to believe me, but believe my Lord, who cannot lie.
There are three views of baptism:
1) The Catholic sacramental works system that teaches that salvation is in a bucket of water, sprinkled on an infant’s head to purge him of sin inherited from his distant father, Adam;
2) The Calvinistic view, which is a reactionary system, teaches that “believe-ism” is the only way to Heaven and that anything commanded, even in the New Testament, is not important or essential to salvation. This theology is an over-reaction to the first view; and
3) The Bible view.
Let me summarize in just a few words the Bible view. Fifteen hundred years before John Calvin was ever born, 500 years before infant baptism was made a tradition, the first Church of Christ believed and taught according to the New Testament that conversion was a process, not a “one step event.” It was a logical process beginning with Romans 10:6 and ending with Romans 10:16, where Paul uses the Greek word “upakuo,” which means to harken under obedience or obey what you have been taught. Romans 10 is nothing but an afterthought of Acts 2:21 where they were told the same thing, “whosoever calls upon the Lord shall be saved.” Notice the future tense – it will lead to salvation. Acts 2:37 records their calling, “what must we do…” (to be saved, of course), and Peter’s answer as given by direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit, “Repent and be immersed in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and gift of the Holy Spirit.
4) Saved by belief – “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, because it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek.” Romans 1:16
5) Saved by hearing – “So then faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.” Romans 10:17
“Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart and said to Peter and to the rest of the apostles, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’” Acts 2:37
6) Saved by obedience – “And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him;” Hebrews 5:9
7) Saved by confessing – “For with the heart man believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth, confession is made unto salvation.” Romans 10:10
8) Saved by immersion– “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 3:21
9) Saved by repentance – “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9
10) Saved by addition to the body (Church) – Acts 2:41-47 and Galatians 3:26-29. God also saves through varied attributes exhibited to his lost human race:
1) God’s mercy saves – “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;” Titus 3:5
2) God’s longsuffering saves – “And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto Him has written unto you,” 2 Peter 3:15
3) God’s love saves – “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16
4) God’s patience saves – “That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” Hebrews 6:124
5) God’s grace saves – “Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)” Ephesians 2:5
6) Christ’s death saves – “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor; that He by the grace of God should taste death for every man.” Hebrews 2:9
7) Christ’s blood saves – “And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him, that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood.” Revelation 1:5
8) Christ’s life – “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” Romans 5:10
9) Christ’s intercession saves – “Wherefore He is also able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them.” Hebrews 7:25
In the above lists, whether referring to God’s overture, or man’s response, which step is the most important, or which rational attribute or response is the most important? Obviously, they are all important. But, may I add, like the steps to the front porch, one may ask which step is the most important? The one you leave out – that is the one that will break the leg. Calvinists have no right to leave anything out. Bible readers will leave them all in the Word where they belong.
The thief on the cross did not have to be immersed into Christ’s death (Romans 6:3-4), because Christ has not yet died. Also, he did not have to be immersed into the New Covenant Church because the New Testament did not go into force until after the death of the Testator, Jesus Christ (Hebrews 9:16). The thief did not have to be immersed any more than Adam who lived 4,000 years before Pentecost, or Noah who lived 2,000 years before Pentecost, or Moses, who lived 1,500 years before Pentecost. The thief was no more under the authority of the New Covenant three hours before Jesus died, than was Jared, 3,000 years before He died. Actually, the full remission of sins (without animal sacrifice) was never preached until Acts 2:38, fifty days after Jesus died (Luke 24:47). This is why the Apostles were so excited about staying in Jerusalem until the promised Spirit came to assist the evangelizing of the world.
Peter stood that day and announced the first terms of pardon under the New Dispensation, as did Paul later (Acts 16:5, 33, 18:8, 19:5, Galatians 3:27), and this same Apostle Peter in comparing the flood of Noah, which water saved him, tell us, “In like figure, even baptism does also now save us, not a bath washing, etc (1 Peter 3:21).” The most important word in 1 Peter 3:21 is “NOW!!” Peter is saying that Noah needed the water from the flood to lift him above the destruction. Noah did not have to be immersed in water in the Name of Christ, because it was not then commanded, but now baptism saves us. Nothing could be more clear than that. I would never trust a preacher to immerse me if he did not believe what the Bible said about immersion.
The heart is important, but as you can see, it is but a small part of the process. We are not lost in they refuse to obey the Gospel. Notice he did not say “believe.” Anybody can believe, but it is in the dispensation that we obey and thereby escaped, by the grace of God, the fires of hell. Our heart is a very Biblically complicated receptacle. With the heart man believes (Romans 10:9), obeys (Romans 6:17), purposes (Acts 11:23), and thinks (Matthew 9:4). The heart chooses to accept or reject information presented in the Word. This is taught so well in the parable of the sower
(Matthew 19:13-28). Remember the seed is the Word, not our feelings (Luke 8:11). The heart is also very deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9), and the reason it is such a small part of the overall conversion process is because God is greater (1 John 3:20-21). Like the electric power generator is greater than our tiny electrical power outlet box, all things originate in God’s mind (2 Corinthians 5:18) with the dispensation of the New Testament commandments (2 Corinthians 3:5-8). The biggest mistake of Calvinistic believers is when they call the New Testament commands “works.” When the Bible says we are not saved by works, it is talking about Old Testament laws and injunctions. Why on earth would the Holy Apostles teach New Testament commands and then tell us that “believe-ism” waives and makes void those commands? They, in fact, taught the opposite reverse saying in effect that if a preacher teaches we are saved without keeping commands or says, “I know Him,” but fails to keep His commands, he is a liar (1 John 2:1-5). If I said all you had to do was be immersed, I would make immersion a god, but for you to say that one does not have to be immersed is to make yourself God. You need, like the humble Lydia, to submit to the Word, my dear Calvinist friend
(Acts 16). I cannot argue you into my viewpoint, but if you attend to the Word, God will open your heart. It makes no difference how many people follow Calvin’s viewpoint. In 1572, the Council of Dort (an assembly of the independent states of Holland) met for the first time in Dordrecht, Holland. By 1618, this council affirmed the doctrines of John Calvin. In fact, the Calvinist met in Europe and tried a few Christian leaders who preached that a human being was responsible for obeying the Gospel. The religious/political leaders who opposed them beheaded the one, calling him an “Arminianist.” You can see that Calvinism was even then so popular that they could invoke the power of the state to kill the opposition.
But the Word is still true!
The Holy Scriptures explain why we should be immersed. After reading the following, where do you
stand if you are not?
– We are immersed to justify God (Luke 7:24-29).
– We are immersed because Jesus was (Matthew 3:14-17).
– We are not immersed to follow Him in obedience because He had no sins, but because we have sin (Acts
– We are immersed as one aspect of obeying the great commission (Matthew 28:18-19; Mark 16:16;
Luke 24:47; John 20:23). Please note that the Apostles could never have fulfilled this until they
– We are immersed to get into Christ (Galatians 3:26-27).
– We are immersed to get into His Body, through the agency of the Holy Spirit convicting us that we
need to obey this command (1 Corinthians 12:13). Wuest’s famous translation puts it thus “For by
means of the personal agency of one Holy Spirit, we were all, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free,
baptized (and by baptism united together in one body). Thayer’s pre-eminent lexicon confirms this
– We are immersed for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38, 22:16). No matter how we feel before, it is
only at baptism that the blood of Christ’s death is applied (Romans 6:1-5).
– We are immersed to be saved (1 Peter 3:21).
– We are immersed for a good conscience (Hebrews 10:22, 1 Corinthians 6:8-12, 1 Peter 3:21).
– We are immersed because of Christ’s resurrection and we need a circumcisional operation of God’s
saving grace (Colossians 2:10-12).
– We are immersed in order to die the first death and likewise, being baptized because Christ died
and we are going to die (read 1 Corinthians 15:29 in connection with what we must do to agree in
covenant ) Acts 8:12, 34.
– We are immersed in order to be born again (John 3:5).
Remember, the early Bible Christians never considered anyone forgiven from sins, filled with the
Spirit, covered with the blood, added to the body and in communion covenant with God (Acts 2:42, 1
Corinthians 11:26) until they were immersed in the great Name of Christ. This was 500 years before the
first denomination, Catholicism, and 1,500 years before Calvinistic “faith only” (James 2:17-18) appeared
in history. Faith only was as wrong fifteen days after the New Testament was written as it was 1,500
years later. It is just as wrong today! “Faith alone,” praying sinners prayers, and heart reception sounds
good, but it does not put people into the body of Christ, the remission of sins, the death of Christ, or
justification (1 Corinthians 6:11).
The trouble with faith only or heart only religion is it gives no assurance or record that God promised in Covenant (1 John 5:7). The “water” is the dividing line. The water was a divider in the beginning (Genesis 1:15). The water divided the world in Noah’s day; the water divided the Red Sea and Egyptian bondage and proposed liberty (1 Corinthians 10:1-5). The water separated the people from the promised land (Joshua 3:15-16); the water divided Jesus’ formative years and his active ministry (Matthew 3:16). The water divided the blind life from sight life (John 9:7-11). And the water is our record, our witness, our certificate, our signpost on earth that we are now in the Kingdom of God. To
leave the water (or washing, Titus 3:5) out of regeneration is to do serious offense, injustice, and harm to God’s Word, and is to become spiritual adulterers (though we honestly and seriously may not know). One commits spiritual rape of a soul when they pronounce that person saved when he or she has not completed the legitimate process. To take a believing begotten baby before it has completed the Scriptural birth process is to be a spiritual abortionist. To proclaim a person married to Christ who has not performed the ceremony is to be a Christian bigamist or fornicator. As there is no difference between a ceremony and a wedding, there is no difference between baptism and a birth. Properly taught and entered into, it becomes the most endearing and blessed consummating act in our life. I know what the Calvinists say – they say water means baby birth, yet Jesus called baby’s birth born of the flesh (John 3:1-4). Then they say it refers to the washing of water by the Word. Now you have illogical redundancy. Jesus would not have said, “Be born of water and water, or word and spirit.” He said “water and spirit.” No early Christian ever understood being born of water as anything other than immersion “baptizmos.” It took Calvin 1,500 years later to try to change our thinking. Jerry Falwell claims that John 5:7 is referring to the water that poured out of Jesus’ side on the cross, but the water there is our witness, not Jesus’ witness. The water of John 19:31-36 which is the water that issued from the Savior’s side gave witness to John and other bystanders that Christ was in reality, dead – His heart completely ruptured. It was unnecessary to break His bones in order to hasten His death as was beforetime stated
in prophecy. To compare this to our water record in John 5:7 is at most “grasping at straws.” The water has to come in our life record and history, not once in the life of Jesus. We must find a place on earth filled with water and must obey instantly and do away with this confusion that the Devil is producing over such a clear-cut statement concerning such a clear-cut doctrine. I truly and sincerely hope I have helped you in this search of Scripture. I know that God is pleased because I love your soul.
Heartbroken because of Calvary,
Jubilant because of the Ascension