Calvinism (Introduction)



7 But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you[a]—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.

I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.

10 And here is my judgment about what is best for you in this matter. Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. 11 Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. 12 For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have.

13 Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. 14 At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality, 15 as it is written: “The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little.”[b

2 Corinthians 8:1-6   New International Version
9 There is no need for me to write to you about this service to the Lord’s people. For I know your eagerness to help, and I have been boasting about it to the Macedonians, telling them that since last year you in Achaia were ready to give; and your enthusiasm has stirred most of them to action. But I am sending the brothers in order that our boasting about you in this matter should not prove hollow, but that you may be ready, as I said you would be. For if any Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared, we—not to say anything about you—would be ashamed of having been so confident. So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to visit you in advance and finish the arrangements for the generous gift you had promised. Then it will be ready as a generous gift, not as one grudgingly given.  

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written:

“They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor;
    their righteousness endures forever.”[a]

10 Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.

12 This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. 13 Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. 14 And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. 15 Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!


Lection Notes for June 27, 2021


The title of the sermon is Paul’s Bottom Line.

The theme this week is God the great storyteller.

  • In the call to worship psalm, Psalm 130, the poet connects his comfort in God to Israel’s comfort, weaving his own story into the epic.
  • In 2 Samuel 1:1,17-27, David mourns Saul, not because the disgraced king was a particularly good man but because he was part of God’s great story of Israel.
  • Mark tells — in Mark 5:21-43 — how Jesus entered the sad story of a sickly woman and made her whole.
  • Our sermon discusses 2 Corinthians 8:7-15, the transformative story of the Gentile churches financially supporting the Jerusalem church. This healing episode of faith-in-action invites us to see how miraculous the gospel story really is.

Paul’s Bottom Line

2 Corinthians 8:7-15 ESV

Religion has actually convinced people that there’s an invisible man living in the sky who watches everything you do, every minute of every day…. But He loves you. He loves you, and He needs money! He always needs money! He’s all-powerful, all-perfect, all-knowing, and all-wise, somehow just can’t handle money!—George Carlin

With trademark 20th century cynicism, comedian George Carlin describes an issue that many people bring up as a reason to leave the church: “All they ever do is ask for money.” Tithing, which has been part of life in the worshipping community since the dawn of faith, has been a touchy subject since the first time the plate was passed.

Like George Carlin’s caustic remarks, there’s a stereotype of the church as money-hungry and driven by finance more than anything else.  Admittedly, some Christians have done plenty to earn this reputation — characters like Jim Bakker and Robert Tilton line the “Halls of Shame” in Christian history. It’s a trite story in which a pastor comes to prominence, then guarantees that people’s tithing will pay big dividends, and then jumps on a plane to a faraway island with his pockets full.  It’s a sad reality that we need to acknowledge rather than shy away from.  In terms of Christian history, it’s a long, jagged, permanent scar.

And this sticky discussion is squarely the main topic of the end of 2 Corinthians.

Let’s read the text: 2 Corinthians 8:7-10,11-17 ESV.

 But as you excel in everything — in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you — see that you excel in this act of grace also.

I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. 10 And in this matter I give my judgment: this benefits you, who a year ago started not only to do this work but also to desire to do it. 11 So now finish doing it as well, so that your readiness in desiring it may be matched by your completing it out of what you have. 12 For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have. 13 For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness 14 your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness. 15 As it is written, “Whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack.” 

16 But thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same earnest care I have for you. 17 For he not only accepted our appeal, but being himself very earnest he is going to you of his own accord.

Paul is coordinating a collection — running a capital campaign. Yet unlike the fundraising efforts that we may have seen, or that George Carlin might describe, the details are different. There are no vague promises about God giving them more money back; there is no misdirecting language or bait-and-switch going on; there’s no guilt trips about earning God’s love.

Instead, Paul’s offering is a way to join in the life of God in the world. This gift isn’t a chance to line pockets or re-carpet the sanctuary; it is a dynamic invitation to participate in God’s kingdom coming in the here and now.

Let’s look at Paul’s bottom line … and how what looks like an afterthought in one of his letters is actually a crucial participation in God’s transforming work. We will break this down into three aspects:

  • Transformation
  • Participation
  • Narration


But as you excel in everything — in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you — see that you excel in this act of grace also. (2 Corinthians 8:7 ESV)

This “generous undertaking” that Paul describes is more than it may seem on the surface. As described here as well as in Romans 15 and other places, Paul asks his Gentile churches to support the primarily Jewish church in Jerusalem.

Supporting churches across international lines is nothing new for most of us. We might have a “special collection” for an impoverished church on the other side of the world, or a presenter might come to us on a mission-themed week to ask for support. But in Paul’s daythis was something entirely new.

This was a major distinctive of the early church. Religion was everywhere — there were temples and shrines and religious festivals as part of daily life.  This was quite different from our modern world in which churches might be everywhere, depending on where you live, but faith is somewhat contained and relegated to the “private” part of life.

The major distinctive, then, was not being religious, even having the unique story that we have in Christ. The Christian world was distinct because it was diverse. Nowhere in the ancient world did they see Jews, Greeks, Macedonians, Romans and all manner of ethnicities in a worshipping, loving community together.

Theologian Tim Mackie describes this:

People had no idea what to do with his communities because the Roman world had never seen such a thing before. In Paul’s day, religion is something you’re born into, it’s completely bound up to the gods of your people group and of your city and of your family. And for people to break that identity and to choose allegiance to a new god and for a Greek and a Macedonian and a Roman and a Jew and a Libyan and an Egyptian and Cyprian to all eat meals together every single Sunday in allegiance to the one true God was absolutely unheard of.

Nobody had seen anything like this before! The Christian community connected people of all backgrounds and walks of life, bringing them together in one family of faith. However, this unifying was not without its issues, and that is what a lot of Paul’s writing is about. In almost every letterthere is a theme of unity — as Christ’s body, as Christ’s temple on earth, as the family of faith — trying to hold together this fledgling body of faith.

One of the major rifts, which Jesus dealt with in his ministry as well, was the rift between the Jewish community and the rest of the world. God’s people were meant to be a blessing to the world, the connection between God’s world and ours, and they had become an insular, scared-of-the-world group that was hostile rather than welcoming; arrogant rather than humble.

This division had carried over into the church. Some of the Jewish Christians demanded their Gentile counterparts to take part in practices made obsolete in Christ. Paul’s rebukes toward this kind of elitism were harsh, to say the least (see Galatians 5:12).

And now Paul asks these Gentile groups to support the Jewish church! That’s transformation! Far more than what might look like just a bit of church housekeeping to us, Paul is telling them to do something revolutionary: support a community that is not only not part of your lineage, but a community that is not so sure they want you as part of theirs. Support them anyway.

Paul calls them toward action. He’s calling them to do more than lip service to this revolutionary unity of people, but to put their money where their mouth is. Not only will they be unified as a church in some abstract way, but this act hits us all where it hurts: Right in the wallet.

Paul’s bottom line is commending the Corinthian church to be part of the transformation of the gospel — bringing about unity where there was division and melting hostility with grace.


For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. (2 Corinthians 8:9 ESV)

One of Jesus’ few direct interactions with a wealthy person is in Matthew 19, when he tells the rich young man to give up all he has and follow Jesus. This is after the man lists out to Jesus how religious he has been — how he’s kept all the commandments from this youth.

One of the demanding aspects that Jesus then lays on him is not another thing for him to do, or another hoop to jump through — Jesus asks him to lackAh, there’s the rub. There’s where it hurts. Rather than something else this young man can do, some action he can add to his regimen, Jesus asks him to go without. This man was a religious athlete, a spiritual all-star, and Jesus asks him to do what he would normally seek to avoid — experience weakness.

Paul asks something similar of the Corinthian community. He asks them to participate in giving up something to support a a sister church.

He doesn’t ask them to give with some promise of more money coming back their way. He doesn’t ask them to give in a way to earn God’s love or favor.  Paul’s bottom line offers them a chance to participate in the life of God in the world through experiencing emptying, just as Christ did.

Jesus stepped into the vulnerable place of giving up himself, knowing that his gift could be forgotten, misused, ignored.   He gave up control and power; he gave up his rightsPaul calls the Corinthian community to take part in this kind of giving up. The bottom line here takes us to an important gospel theme: Jesus acted like us so we could act like like him. He (Jesus) left his throne at the Father’s side to show us that humility is the key to freedom and giving away is the key to true riches.  Paul is asking them and us to love as Jesus loves.

In joining in Christ’s work to give up something to support someone else, the Corinthian church wouldn’t be gaining favor or prestige — they would be meeting Jesus.  In participating with Jesus, they would know him better.


This may sound like a strange word for our last point, but what we’re looking at with (the word) “narration” is the sense of the larger story arc of God’s relationship with his favorite creation: us. This epic narrative finds its culmination, its centerpiece, in Jesus.

As modern Christians, we tend to disconnect the two testaments, as if God was a different person before Jesus came along. We don’t see the interlocking parts of the story — the story of Jesus that started with Abraham and even before that.

One of the difficult currents of the early church was the relationship with the past. Jewish factions pressed Gentile converts to practice Hebrew ritespagan converts balked at restrictions on sexual freedom and other uncomfortable ethical codes. These cultures were two different planets coming together.

Paul touches on this narrative briefly in verse 15:

As it is written, “Whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack.” (2 Corinthians 8:15 ESV)

On the first pass, we see that Paul talks about the need for equality in the body of Christ. There is no longer any kind of hierarchy or quid-pro-quo; the family of faith supports each other.

Paul mentions the impoverished community of Macedonia (2 Corinthians 8:1-6) participating in this work. He then appeals to Corinth, which was most likely a more wealthy community. These are two ethnic groups with two levels of wealth called to the same work.

Read 2 Corinthians 8:15 again and you’ll see that Paul quotes Exodus 16, referring to gathering manna in the desert. This was part of the defining narrative for Israel — the Exodus. Paul connects Corinth — pagan, licentious, worldly — with the narrative of Israel!    He says the “chosen people” of God are not just one ethnic groupbut all people in Christ. He refers to the Israelites centuries before and says, “Corinth, these are your people!”

So, how does Paul’s bottom line speak to us today?

What does that mean to us centuries later in a crowded and busy world?

Transformation — Paul called the Corinthians to take action in the transformative work of healing ethnic divisions, something unheard of in the ancient world. There are supernatural transformations like this still happening, often inspired and spearheaded by Christians. Think of the Civil Rights movement in the U.S. that changed history — the vision for this was born in the church. Think of the international unity in the body of Christ and the transformation this shows to the world.

Participation — “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).  Following Christ is not some way to curry favor with the divine or sweeten the afterlife. It’s the way to fully enter into life, to have it abundantly. Giving to the church or other kingdom causes shouldn’t come from a place of guilt or obligation, but from a desire for the abundant life of knowing Jesus and participating in his kingdom breaking into the world. In humility, we are exalted with him. In being generous along with him, we find true riches and freedom.

Narration — You are part of the epic narrative of God and humanity. As a Christian, the story still flows in your veins. The great heroes you read about in Scripture are your older brothers and sisters who are in the heavenly courts right now. You are as much a part of the story as Moses, Joshua, Paul, Mary — any of these other heroes. There is no one thread in this tapestry that matters more than the others.

Paul called the Corinthians to participate in the life and kingdom of God through this collection for Jerusalem. He knew their gift wouldn’t only result in expanding the church or supporting the poor — their giving would result in them encountering Jesus.

And that, brothers and sisters, is the bottom line.


Small Group Discussion Questions

Questions for sermon: “Paul’s Bottom Line”

  • Why do you think there’s a stereotype out there that all the church is after is money?
  • Is that a fair assessment?
  • Have we earned that reputation?
  • The sermon talked about the collection for the Jerusalem church as a chance to enter into the life of God and experience a deeper relationship with him. Do you think of tithing as participating in that?
  • What are some unhealthy views of tithing?
  • How do we grow toward a healthy attitude and practice of stewardship?

Quote to ponder:

“My piece of bread only belongs to me when I know that everyone else has a share, and that no one starves while I eat.” ~ Leo Tolstoy



According to Calvinism

Salvation is accomplished by the almighty power of the Triune God. The Father chose a people; the Son died for them; the Holy Spirit makes Christ’s death effective by bringing the elect to faith and repentance, thereby causing them to willingly obey the gospel. The entire process (election, redemption, regeneration) is the work of God and is by grace alone. Thus God, not man, determines who will be the recipients of the gift of salvation.

According to Arminianism                                                                                              

Salvation is accomplished through the combined efforts of God (who takes the initiative) and man (who must respond) — man’s response being the determining factor. God has provided salvation for everyone, but His provision becomes effective only for those who, of their own free will, “choose” to cooperate with Him and accept His offer of grace. At the crucial point, man’s will plays a decisive role; thus man, not God, determines who will be the recipients of the gift of salvation.


1.  Total Inability or Total Depravity

Because of the fall, man is unable of himself to savingly believe the gospel. The sinner is dead, blind, and deaf to the things of God; his heart is deceitful and desperately corrupt. His will is not free, it is in bondage to his evil nature, therefore, he will not — indeed he cannot — choose good over evil in the spiritual realm. Consequently, it takes much more than the Spirit’s assistance to bring a sinner to Christ — it takes  regeneration by which the Spirit makes the sinner alive and gives him a new nature. Faith is not something man contributes to salvation but is itself a part of God’s gift of salvation— it is God’s gift to the sinner, not the sinner’s gift to God.

Free Will or Human Ability

Although human nature was seriously affected by the fall, man has not been left in a state of total spiritual helplessness. God graciously enables every sinner to repent and believe, but He does not interfere with man’s freedom. Each sinner possesses a free will, and his eternal destiny depends on how he uses it. Man’s freedom consists of his ability to choose good over evil in spiritual matters; his will is not enslaved to his sinful nature. The sinner has the power to either cooperate with God’s Spirit and be regenerated or resist God’s grace and perish. The lost sinner needs the Spirit’s assistance, but he does not have to be regenerated by the Spirit before he can believe, for faith is man’s act and precedes the new birth. Faith is the sinner’s gift to God; it is man’s contribution to salvation.

2.  Unconditional Election

God’s choice of certain individuals unto salvation before the foundation of the world rested solely in His own sovereign will. His choice of particular sinners was not based on any foreseen response of obedience on their part, such as faith, repentance, etc. On the contrary, God gives faith and repentance to each individual whom He selected. These acts are the result, not the cause of God’s choice. Election therefore was not determined by or conditioned upon any virtuous quality or act foreseen in man. Those whom God sovereignly elected He brings through the power of the Spirit to a willing acceptance of Christ.

Thus God’s choice of the sinner, not the sinner’s choice of Christ, is the ultimate cause of salvation.

Election refers to the concept of how people are chosen for salvation.  Calvinists believe election is unconditional.   Before the foundation of the world, God unconditionally chose (or “elected”) some to be saved. Election has nothing to do with man’s future response. The elect are chosen by God.

Conditional Election

God’s choice of certain individuals unto salvation before the foundation of the world was based upon His foreseeing that they would respond to His call. He selected only those whom He knew would of themselves freely believe the gospel. Election therefore was determined by or conditioned upon what man would do. The faith which God foresaw and upon which He based His choice was not given to the sinner by God (it was not created by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit) but resulted solely from man’s will. It was left entirely up to man as to who would believe and therefore as to who would be elected unto salvation. God chose those whom He knew would, of their own free will, choose Christ.

Thus the sinner’s choice of Christ, not God’s choice of the sinner, is the ultimate cause of salvation.

Election is conditional.   Election is based on God’s foreknowledge of those who would believe in him through faith. In other words, God elected those who would choose him of their own free will. Conditional election is based on man’s response to God’s offer of salvation.


3.  Particular Redemption or Limited Atonement

Christ’s redeeming work was intended to save the elect only and actually secured salvation for them. His death was a substitutionary endurance of the penalty of sin in the place of certain specified sinners. In addition to putting away the sins of His people, Christ’s redemption secured everything necessary for their salvation, including faith which unites them to Him. The gift of faith is infallibly applied by the Spirit to all for whom Christ died, therefore guaranteeing their salvation.

Universal Redemption or General Atonement

Christ’s redeeming work made it possible for everyone to be saved but did not actually secure the salvation of anyone. Although Christ died for all men and for every man, only those who believe on Him are saved. His death enabled God to pardon sinners on the condition that they believe, but it did not actually put away anyone’s sins. Christ’s redemption becomes effective only if man chooses to accept it.


4.  Irresistible Grace (The Efficacious Call of the Spirit)

In addition to the outward general call to salvation, which is made to everyone who hears the gospel, the Holy Spirit extends to the elect a special inward call that inevitably brings them to salvation. The eternal call (which is made to all without distinction) can be, and often is, rejected; whereas the internal call (which is made only to the elect) cannot be rejected; it always results in conversion. By mean, of this special call the Spirit irresistibly draws sinners to Christ. He is not limited in His work of applying salvation by man’s will, nor is He dependent upon man’s cooperation for success. The Spirit graciously causes the elect sinner to cooperate, to believe, to repent, to come freely and willingly to Christ. God’, grace. therefore, is invincible; it never fails to result in the salvation of those to whom it is extended.

The Holy Spirit Can Be Effectually Resisted

The Spirit calls inwardly all those who are called outwardly by the gospel invitation; He does all that He can to bring every sinner to salvation. But inasmuch as man is free, he can successfully resist the Spirit’s call. The Spirit cannot regenerate the sinner until he believes; faith (which is man’s contribution) precedes and makes possible the new birth. Thus, man’s free will limits the Spirit in the application of Christ’s saving work. The Holy Spirit can only draw to Christ those who allow Him to have His way with them. Until the sinner responds, the Spirit cannot give life. God’s grace, therefore, is not invincible; it can be, and often is, resisted and thwarted by man.


5.  Perseverance of the Saints

All who are chosen by God, redeemed by Christ, and given faith by the Spirit are eternally saved. They are kept in faith by the power of Almighty God and thus persevere to the end.

Falling From Grace

Those who believe and are truly saved can lose their salvation by failing to keep up their faith. etc. All Arminian, have not been agreed on this point; some have held that believers are eternally secure in Christ — that once a sinner is regenerated. he can never be lost.



Are there any passages that would seem to limit the extent of the atonement to less than every single person?

  • And the answer to that question is an unqualified “Yes!


Isaiah 53:11-12 … “He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied.  By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify MANY, for He shall bear their iniquities. He poured out His soul unto death, and He was numbered with the transgressors; and He bore the sin of MANY, and made intercession for the transgressors.”

  • Calvinists point out, here, that … the word is not “all”, but “many” … and the word “many” cannot mean “every single person.”

Matthew 20:16 … “MANY are called, but few are chosen.”

Matthew 20:28 … “…just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for MANY.”

  • Here, Calvinists point out that the Messiah plainly states that His ultimate mission was to offer His life as a ransom — as the price paid to deliver somebody from slavery, death and imprisonment – but that the ransom was for “many”, NOT for all.

Revelation 5:9 … “And they sang a new song, saying: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation….’ ”

  • Here, the Calvinists point out that … we often hear that God redeemed every tribe, tongue and nation … but what Revelation 5:9 says is that He redeemed “out of every tribe and tongue and nation,” which emphasizes more His sovereign choice within the peoples of the earth.

John 10:11 …  “I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd gives His life for the sheep.”

  • Here, Calvinists point out that Jesus is referring to the atonement … and He states that He gives His life for the sheep … not for all.

John 10:24-26 … “How long do You keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.”  Jesus replies, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me. But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep.”

  • According to J.P. Boyce, founder of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, the flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention, notes:
  1. The sheep here are those to whom He will give eternal life.
  2. They are those for whom He lays down His life.
  3. They are not all, because He tells those who were rejecting Him that they were not His sheep.
  4. The whole language used implies that the salvation of the sheep alone is the object for which His life is laid down.
  • According to Calvinists … in John 10, Jesus did not say, “I am the Good Shepherd and I lay down my life for the wolves, goats and sheep.” He said, “I am the Good Shepherd and I lay down my life for the sheep that they might have life. “
  • According to Calvinists … When Jesus was hanging upon the cross He was dying for specific people – those whom the Father had given to Him … Those were the ones on his heart … and He was laying down His life, shedding His blood, for them.  He was substituting Himself for them, His life for theirs, paying for their sins.
  • This, they say, is what He meant when He talked about His sheep … and that He would lay down His life for His sheep, He was referring to Himself as the substitute for God’s elect … and those are the ones that would be saved by His death.

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