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by Dr. C. L. Cagan

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Saturday Morning, September 3, 2016

“I have much people in this city” (Acts 18:10).

The Apostle Paul was in the city of Corinth doing evangelism. But he faced a lot of opposition. Many people refused to trust Christ. They hated what Paul was doing. One night the Lord Jesus appeared to Paul in a vision and told him not to be afraid. Christ said to Paul, “Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace: For I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much people in this city” (Acts 18:9-10). Jesus told Paul that He had much people in the city of Corinth – though those people weren’t saved yet – even though Paul hadn’t talked to them yet!

What did Christ mean when He told Paul that He had much people in Corinth, even though those people were still lost? It means there were many people there who were elect – who were chosen by God for salvation. Because they were elect, chosen for salvation, they were certainly going to trust Jesus. Christ the Son of God knew this from eternity past. He encouraged Paul by telling him there were many elect people there, that many people in Corinth were going to be saved. They were chosen to be saved. Their conversion was sure to happen.

Our text says, “I have much people in this city.” This verse shows the truth of election, which is one of the doctrines of Calvinism. Calvinism gets its name from the great Reformer John Calvin (1509-1564), who wrote about the Bible doctrine of salvation. But Calvinism is not simply what one man believed. It is what the Bible itself says about salvation.

The Bible teaches that some people are elected (chosen) to salvation and others are not. Jesus said, “Many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14). Only some people are chosen to be saved. Paul said to the Christians in Thessalonica, “Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God” (I Thessalonians 1:4). Paul said to the Ephesians, “[God] hath chosen us in [Christ] before the foundation of the world... Having predestinated us” (Ephesians 1:4, 5). Someone asks, “Do you understand this completely?” No, I don’t. But I believe what God says! God said, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9). God is smarter than you and I. So I’ll believe what the Bible says. Some people are elect and some are not. That’s all!

Paul was a Calvinist. He was also a great evangelist and missionary! Paul didn’t just sit around and do nothing, waiting for God to do everything. He knew that God uses people to make happen what He wants. God chose His elect. But He used Paul to carry out what He wanted and bring these people to Christ.

Paul knew that God sent him to preach the Gospel. Paul suffered much to take the Gospel to the Roman world. He said,

“Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness” (II Corinthians 11:25-27).

Paul suffered to preach Christ. He would do anything but sin to bring people to Christ. Paul respected the customs of others to make it easier to present Christ to them. He said, “I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more... unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews... To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. And this I do for the gospel's sake” (I Corinthians 9:19-20, 22-23). Paul was a Calvinist. At the same time, he tried hard, prayed hard, and worked hard to bring as many to Christ as he could. There is no contradiction! Paul was doing what God had planned.

Paul was a Calvinist. He believed that God had chosen some to be saved and not others. At the same time Paul was a passionate soul winner! He told the Philippian jailer, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” – and the man did (Acts 16:31). Paul pleaded with King Agrippa to trust Christ. He said to the king, “I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were...such as I am” (Acts 26:29). Agrippa never got saved. He was not one of the elect. But Paul did not know who God had chosen. He preached Christ to Agrippa just as he did to the Philippian jailer. One of them trusted Christ and one did not. Paul worked to bring people to Christ. He suffered to bring people to Christ.

Paul’s Calvinism was the foundation of his evangelism. It was the foundation of his missionary work. He knew that Christ had made him “a chosen bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15). The Lord said to Paul, “I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles” (Acts 22:21). Paul didn’t win everyone he talked to. He didn’t win everyone he preached to. Only the elect were saved. And all the elect were saved. The Bible says, “As many as were ordained to eternal life believed” (Acts 13:48). Paul kept preaching and witnessing. He knew that some would trust Christ and most would not. He kept on because Jesus told him to do it. His work was part of God’s plan. God used Paul as an instrument – a “means” – to make His plan happen, to bring His chosen people to salvation. Paul knew that God was behind his own work. Paul’s work was part of Christ’s command. Paul’s work was part of God’s plan. So Paul could not lose. He could not fail. Paul knew that God had sent him. His Calvinism was the foundation of his evangelism and his missionary work. Today we’re going to look at what Calvinism is – and then at how Calvinism is the foundation of evangelism and missions.

I. First, what Calvinism is.

I can summarize Calvinism – the Bible doctrine of salvation – in a few words: “God, not man.” This is the opposite of what most people believe today. The heretic Charles Finney (1792-1875) brought in the false doctrine of “decisionism,” that anyone can save himself any time he wants by a decision of his human will. “Decisionism” is what almost everyone believes today. Do you want to be saved? Then pray a “sinner’s prayer.” Raise your hand. Come forward. Get baptized. Believe a doctrine. Be a better person. Make a Lordship commitment. Rededicate your life. Make some kind of “decision” – and you will be saved. Decisionism means “man, not God.” You save yourself by a human decision, any time you want to. It sounds good, but it doesn’t work. It won’t save you. It won’t save anyone. If you – or anyone – is going to be saved, God has to do it. That is Calvinism: “God, not man.”

The first point of Calvinism is that all people are totally depraved sinners. Depravity isn’t the things you do. Depravity is what you are. You are “by nature the children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3). You are “dead in sins” (Ephesians 2:5). You are permanently in sin and you can’t get out of it, no matter what you do, no matter how hard you try. In your heart, in your center, you are an enemy of God. The Bible says, “The carnal [unconverted] mind is enmity against God” (Romans 8:7). That’s why you are selfish. Your heart is wicked. The Bible says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9). That’s why you can’t trust your heart. The Bible says, “He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool” (Proverbs 28:26). You will never be saved by trusting your thoughts and feelings. You’re a fool if you do that.

And you cannot change yourself. You cannot make yourself be clean. The Bible says the lost person “is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” (Romans 8:7). You can’t be good, because you can’t change your own nature – the way you are inside. The Bible says, “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one” (Job 14:4). You can’t change yourself from unclean to clean. Try it! You’ll soon find out that you stay dirty. No, you can’t save yourself. If you’re going to be saved, it has to be God who does it. It has to be God who brings you to salvation through Christ. It has to be “God, not man.”

Calvinism teaches the Bible doctrine of unconditional election. This means that God has elected – chosen – some people to be saved and left the others as they are. The Bible says, “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4). Before the universe was created, God chose who would be saved.

Jesus said, “Many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14). Many people hear the Gospel, but only the elect – the chosen – trust Christ and are saved. Paul said to the Thessalonian Christians, “Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God” (I Thessalonians 1:4). Again, Paul said to them, “God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation” (II Thessalonians 2:13). You may say, “I don’t understand this.” I don’t fully understand it either. But God says it in His Word, and I believe it.

You may say, “What about the love of God? Why doesn’t He save everyone?” The fact is that “all have sinned” (Romans 3:23). “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10). Everyone is “by nature the children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3). You and I and everyone deserve to go to Hell for our sin. God would be perfectly fair and righteous to send everyone to Hell. It is a miracle of God’s love that He doesn’t punish everyone as they deserve. It is a miracle of God’s love that He saves any sinners at all!

Some Calvinists believe in limited atonement, the idea that Christ died only for the elect. But the Bible says, “He [Christ] is the propitiation [the payment] for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (I John 2:2). Jesus died for all humanity. He shed His Blood for everyone. The atonement is unlimited, given for all. Because we believe in unlimited atonement, we are four-point Calvinists and not five-point Calvinists. Jesus died for all. But the atonement of Christ is only applied to those who trust Him. Only they are saved by His Blood.

“Decisionism” says that anyone can trust Christ any time he wants. But that’s not what the Bible teaches. You can’t make yourself come to Christ. Jesus said, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him” (John 6:44). Calvinism calls that drawing irresistible grace. The Bible says, “Whom he did predestinate [the elect], them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified [their sins were pardoned in Christ]” (Romans 8:30). This is not the general call when the Gospel is preached to everyone. This “call” is when God draws a sinner to Christ. It is the effectual call – meaning that it gets the job done – it brings the sinner to Christ.

Finally, Calvinism teaches the perseverance of the saints. This means that if you have trusted Christ, you will never be lost again. You may go through many things in life. You may suffer. But you will never fall away from Jesus. God won’t let you. The Bible says, “He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). A modern translation says, “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (NIV). God will finish what He started. He will not let you go. The Bible says,

“Whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate [the elect]... Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called [irresistible grace]: and whom he called, them he also justified [they were saved in Christ]: and whom he justified, them he also glorified” (Romans 8:29, 30).

These verses are called “the golden chain.” One single group – the elect – goes through every part of the chain. The same people who are predestinated are also called. These same people are also justified. And these same people will be glorified! The verse says “them he also glorified” as though it was already done. In God’s sight, it’s as sure now as if it already happened. These same people who were predestinated – who were called – who were justified – are every one of them sure to be glorified! God says so! If you have trusted Christ, you are one of these people, and you will never be lost again.

We have seen the main teachings of Calvinism. Now we will see how Calvinism is the foundation and support for evangelism and missions.

II. Second, how Calvinism is the foundation and support for evangelism and missions.

Someone may say, “Why do evangelism at all? Let God do everything.” That appeals to the laziness and selfishness of man. It is also unbiblical.

God uses us as human instruments to make His plan happen – to bring His chosen ones to Christ. Christians are part of God’s work. We are part of God’s plan. We do evangelism because God told us to do it. Remember the words, “God, not man.” We don’t do evangelism because poor sinners deserve to be saved. We don’t do evangelism to show how good we are. We do evangelism because God told us to. We obey Christ’s command. We have His support. After Jesus rose from the dead, He gave the Great Commission,

“Go ye therefore, and teach [make disciples of] all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world [the end of the age]” (Matthew 28:19-20).

Christ commanded Christians to do evangelism, to make disciples. We go because Christ told us to. Whether people listen or not, we go – because Christ told us to. He promised to be with us. We have Christ’s command, and His presence. Again, Jesus said,

“Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15).

Christ told us to preach the gospel “to every creature” – even the non-elect. We don’t know who is elect and who is not. We go after people even though most will not hear. We go, as God said to Ezekiel, “whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear” (Ezekiel 2:5). We do our best to “compel them to come in” to church, to hear the Gospel and trust Christ (Luke 14:23). We do everything we can to bring them in. When they come, we love them and care for them. We pray for them. We preach the Gospel to them. Some will trust Christ, and most will not. None of the non-elect will trust Christ. But all of the elect will trust Christ and be Christians in the church for the rest of their lives! You can count on that! God said so!

If you do evangelism because poor sinners need your help, you will be disappointed again and again – by those same sinners. You’ll think, “It didn’t work.” You’ll feel like giving up. But if you do evangelism because Christ told you to, you will not be disappointed. You succeeded, because you obeyed Christ. You will rejoice because you have obeyed your Saviour. The Psalmist said, “Cast thy burden upon the Lord” (Psalm 55:22). Do not cast the burden upon yourself! If you have worked and prayed and loved, and someone won’t trust Christ, do not be discouraged. Do not quit. That person showed he was not among the elect. Go on to other people. Some of them are elect. Some people will, without doubt, without fail, come in and be saved!

Calvinism – with its trust in Christ’s command, with God using people to fulfill His purpose – is a great support to evangelism. In the same way, Calvinism is a great support to missions. Some people today go on “short term mission trips” for a few weeks or months. They aren’t starting churches or winning souls. They’re just taking a trip and visiting churches. A lot of these trips are really vacations! Other people go to a place where it is easy to get “decisions.” If they went to a difficult place, they’d soon give up and go home. But the early missionaries were not like that. They went where God told them to go, no matter how hard it was. They didn’t go for a few weeks or months. They didn’t give up when it was hard. They suffered, but they didn’t go home. They went to the mission field for life – and to die there. They went for God, not man.

William Carey was a Calvinist. He went to India because God told him to. His wife lost her mind and had to be restrained in a chair. Carey went for years before he won a convert to Christ. Today’s missionaries would have given up and gone home. But Carey stayed – because it was God who sent him, and it was Christ who promised to be with him! There are hundreds of thousands of Christians in India today because of William Carey!

Adoniram Judson was a Calvinist. He went to Burma because God told him to. His wife died. His children died. He was put in prison. Judson went for years before he won a convert to Christ. Today’s missionaries would have given up and gone home. But Judson stayed – because it was God who sent him, and it was Christ who promised to be with him! There are hundreds of thousands of Christians there today because of Adoniram Judson!

I said that Calvinism means “God, not man.” The Bible says, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). Do evangelism because God told you to! Christ will be with you. Don’t do evangelism for the sinners. Don’t do it for yourself. Remember who you serve! Do it for Christ who died for you, who told you to go, and promised to be with you. Do it for Him! Amen.

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by Dr. C. L. Cagan

“I have much people in this city” (Acts 18:10).

(Acts 18:9-10; Matthew 22:14; I Thessalonians 1:4; Ephesians 1:4, 5;
Isaiah 55:9; II Corinthians 11:25-27; I Corinthians 9:19-20, 22-23;
Acts 16:31; 26:29; 9:15; 22:21; 13:48)

I.   First, what Calvinism is, Ephesians 2:3, 5; Romans 8:7; Jeremiah 17:9;
Proverbs 28:26; Job 14:4; Ephesians 1:4; Matthew 22:14;
I Thessalonians 1:4; II Thessalonians 2:13; Romans 3:23, 10;
Ephesians 2:3; I John 2:2; John 6:44; Romans 8:30; Philippians 1:6;
Romans 8:29, 30.

II.  Second, how Calvinism is the foundation and support for evangelism
and missions, Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15; Ezekiel 2:5;
Luke 14:23; Psalm 55:22; Romans 8:31.