Calvinism Really is the Gospel- Calvinism Preaches God’s Unchanging, Eternal, Electing Love

March 14, 2009

Okay, I’ll admit, the first two days of comparing Calvinism with the gospel through Spurgeon’s quote were probably quite uncontroversial.  Very few of us in Protestant evangelicalism are likely to say we object to justification by faith and God’s sovereignty in granting his grace, even if practically we deny these things through how we behave.  However, this next part is different, and is truly where we will start to see the divide between the general ‘gospel’ and the gospel as championed by Charles Spurgeon.  Here is what it says:

Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else. I do not believe we can preach the gospel if we do not preach justification by faith without works; nor unless we preach the sovereignty of God in His dispensation of grace; nor unless we exalt the electing unchangeable eternal, immutable, conquering love of Jehovah . . .

Spurgeon’s third evidence that Calvinism is the gospel is that, if one is to truly preach the gospel then they must ”exalt the electing unchangeable eternal, immutable, conquering love” of God.  Of course the rub here is in exalting God’s (unconditionally) electing love, so let’s approach the other characteristics first, seeing that all of these aspects are pictured in the great passage of Romans 8.31-39.

(Note: We must remark here that God’s love is being said to be unchangeable eternal, immutable, and  conquering for the believer.  This is carried in the quote by the fact that Spurgeon refers to it as “electing love.”)

God’s love is unchangeable eternal.  In Romans 8.38-39 Paul tells us, “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Those are a great many things and yet none of them can separate believers from the love of Christ.  As well, Psalm 136.1 says, “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.”  If anything is good news, the unchangeable eternal love of God for the redeemed would surely have to fit that description.

God’s love is immutable.  Now, I realize that this sounds quite like “God’s love is unchangeable eternal” but I think there is a difference.  In the first condition, there is nothing external that can change God’s love.  With immutability, we say that God will never change his love internally.  The immutability of God’s love is commensurate with the immutability of God proper, and this is testified in places like Numbers 23.19 which says, “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind.  Has he said, and will he not do it?  Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?”  Therefore, just as God’s love being safe from external influence is good news, so is God’s love being safe from internal fluxuation.

God’s love is conquering.  Really all of Romans 8.31-39 proclaims this truth, but in particular we see verses 33 and 34 which declare, “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?  It is God who justifies.  Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised— who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.”  No one may condemn us now, no one may prevail over us today, thanks to the conquering love of God which sent his son to bear the wrath we were to receive (1 John 4.10).  This is definitely good news, and is probably the best news never understood by most “Christians”– that our fate apart from Christ is death and eternal punishment (John 3.18), but through the sacrifical love of Christ and God in sending his son we may now become “more than conquerers” over sin and death (v.37).

Finally, that leads us to the idea of unconditional election.  How is it that God’s love is shown forth in unconditional election and how might that qualify as good news?  To start, Ephesians 1.3-6 says,

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even 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 for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,  to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. (emphasis added)

So, Paul tells us that the mere act of electing is done in love.  Likewise, in 2 Thessalonians 2.13 Paul calls the Christians in Thesslonica “beloved by the Lord” because they have been “[chosen] as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.”  Thus, pretty clearly it is told that the acts of unconditional election and love go together in God’s plan of salvation.

But is this good news?  How could it not be?  Romans 8.33, “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.”  The elect are safe, why? because they are the elect.  With election comes the sure promise of redemption (cf. Romans 8.30) as well as the comfort in knowing that it is by no merit of their own that they are guaranteed this, but upon the unchanging purpose of him who chose them (cf. Romans 8.28, Ephesians 1.5).

Therefore, we have thus argued that the third evidence from Spurgeon’s quote, that God’s “electing unchangeable eternal, immutable, conquering love” is good news, is true and so stands as further proof that Calvinism really is the gospel.