“I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy” (Ex. 33:19b).
– Exodus 33:19B
Arminians (semi-Pelagians) know the Lord is all-powerful (Job 42:1–2) and can stop or start any event if He so desires. Arminians also affirm the Creator’s complete knowledge of the future (Isa. 46:8–10) even if they do not attribute causation to God in the same sense that Augustinians (Calvinists) do. Therefore, Arminians, no less than Calvinists, believe the Lord foreordains all things. For example, if God knows He will stop me from wearing every shirt I own today except my green one, then the Arminian has to admit that I must wear my green shirt. The event is established; it is foreordained.
As Dr. R.C. Sproul has said, “There is no maverick molecule if God is sovereign.” If He cannot control the tiniest bits of the universe, then we cannot trust Him to keep His word. The Lord vowed to bring Abraham’s sons out of Egypt (Gen. 15:12–16), but if Joseph was not the object of his father’s favoritism, his brothers would not have envied him. If they had not envied him, they would not have sold him to the Ishmaelites, Israel would not have gone into Egypt, and God could not have kept His promise to the patriarch (37–50).
Given that not everyone will be saved (Rev. 20:11–15), only two options exist as to how the Lord’s sovereignty relates to salvation:
1. God intervenes to ensure the salvation of some people. This is the Calvinist position, and, we argue, it is truer to Scripture than the second option. Because we are dead in sin, the Lord must directly change our hearts, guaranteeing His people will trust Jesus (Eph. 2:1–10). Those whom God chooses to save, today’s passage teaches, are chosen based on His own good pleasure and nothing else.
2. God provides an equal opportunity for everyone to be saved. Arminians believe this, saying Calvinists make God’s decision arbitrary since some are not chosen. But this criticism is not justified.The idea that God owes everyone a chance to be saved is assumed here, but the Lord is not obligated to redeem anyone, much less give a chance to believe (Ex. 33:19b). Moreover, many people never hear the Gospel and never have a chance to be saved. Even the Arminian position fails to meet its own conditions for fairness.
Arminians must admit that if God provides a mere offer for salvation, there is a chance no one would ever believe and be saved. But this contradicts Scripture, for the Bible says the Messiah will see the successful results of His labor, the justification of His people, and be satisfied (Isa. 53:11). The Calvinist position is in harmony with this truth and exalts the sovereign, almighty Lord whom we are called to worship. Honor and praise Him this day.
Passages for Further Study