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Calvinism Recognizes the Power of the Holy Ghost
L. R. Shelton

An audio file of this sermon is available at

One of the greatest evils of Calvinism, as viewed through the eyes of an Arminian, is the power of the Holy Spirit in the work of salvation and in the church. Every Arminian will rise in defense, "Brother Shelton, we believe in the Holy Spirit!" Certainly, you do – I have never known a true Arminian who denied the personality of the Holy Spirit. I believe every true Arminian will say, "Brother Shelton, I believe in the Holy Spirit. I believe in the Trinity – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit." Yes, that's true, but you listen. The church today has rejected the power of the Holy Spirit as the world has rejected the truth of their salvation. Calvinism recognizes the power of the Holy Spirit. The average church member, I mean, Arminian, will tell you that the Bible teaches the work of the Holy Spirit, but they will not have old-time Bible, Holy Spirit conviction that leads to heartfelt repentance, because it's stirs the human heart; they count it as unwholesome and undigestible. Now that's an Arminian. Brother, I ought to know!

There isn't a true Arminian today who will accept the power of the Holy Ghost in old-time Holy Ghost conviction that leads to repentance, in the pulpit and out of the pulpit. Why? Because Holy Spirit conviction stirs the human heart, opens the human heart and let's the sinner see what a sinner he is, breaks him completely at the feet of Christ crying for mercy, shuts him up with the Lord Jesus and Him alone for salvation. They count such work of the Holy Spirit unwholesome and undigestible! That is the reason I was turned out of the Association; it was those grounds – not because I was teaching fase doctrine, not because I wouldn't cooperate with the brethren, but because my messages stirred them as the messages of the Apostle Paul stirred the hearts of folks in his day.

For four years, from 1950 to 1953, I was under a tent, which I pitched here and there, sometimes out in the middle of the piney woods, sometimes at the edge of a city – it didn't make much difference to the folks who wanted to come – and I preached to large crowds. God would bring some under Holy Spirit conviction, and when He did every Arminian preacher would get mad, quit the meeting, and go off criticizing me. Finally they said, "We have to get rid of that preacher because his messages are unwholesome to us; they are not digestible. We don't understand them." They told the truth. They thought they had put me to death, but here I am pleading with sinners. Brother, if I go down, I'll go down with my guns blazing with the truth of God's Word, pleading with sinners to repent, and trusting the Holy Spirit to do His work in the hearts of individuals.

The work of the Holy Spirit in the heart of the sinner and the saint is mysterious and cannot be understood by an Arminian. The Arminian puts the emphasis on the will of man, the personality of the preacher, his intellect, etc. As one such preacher said to me one day, "You know, Dr. So and So is having great success, Bro. Shelton, and I finally came to the conclusion why. It is due to his fine personality and his ability to manipulate his invitations to get sinners on a decision for Christ, and because of his understanding of human nature and his knowledge of how to get along with folks." Yes, he was getting them into the church, and that is all they are teaching in the majority of the seminary's today. Now you get this statement. I will back it anywhere. That's all that is being taught in the majority of our seminaries today! They are teaching those preachers how to draw their breath, draw their salary, get along with folks, and let their congregation go to Hell! Brother, if you take a bite of that in New York, it will taste the same in San Francisco – it's like bologna sausage: it never changes its taste. They are putting all preachers in a mold.

Another individual said to me one day, "We had a great service Sunday night; all the members of my Intermediate Department were one to Christ." I said, "That is wonderful, but did they get to Christ?" The way he did it was by his charming personality, the manner in which he gave his invitation, and the power he had in getting them to step out for Christ. Now, my friends, that's Arminianism to the core! True Calvinism recognizes only the power of the Holy Spirit to win men to Christ, regardless of the instrument God uses. Do you know, the most useless thing in all of God's creation to bring men to Christ is one of these so-called educated, refined, charming personalities called a preacher! He is the most useless thing in all of God's creation. He is one of Satan's means to damn souls to Hell! "Well," you ask, "Preacher, do you cry down education?" No, I certainly don't! I am not what you call and educated man, a scholar, from many angles – I know that, but I am the author of nearly 90 volumes, and we are caring on an effective radio ministry. I have a personal library of around 7000 volumes, and I am constantly studying. I can use everything in the world that I learn, and any preacher – God's preacher – can use everything in the world he learns, from knowing how to raise chickens to laying brick, if you need that.

The sinner is dead, and that sinner has to be raised to life in Christ to be saved. He can only be raised to life by the power of God's Holy Spirit, regardless of what type of personality a man may have. Paul's said on one occasion, "Brethren, ... I came to you ... not with enticing (persuasive) words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God" (I Cor. 2:1-5). Let me ask you something, friends, How can a sinner be raised to life except by the Holy Spirit, regardless of what type of personality the preacher or any other individual may have? Now, I am not saying that a preacher should not be educated. As I said to a young preacher the other day, "Learn everything you can, because you will need everything you learn in the ministry." But, my friend, only God has power to give life to a dead sinner. I wish we preachers recognized that thing. You haven't the power to do it, and neither have I. The Bible gives all the glory to the sovereign Holy Spirit in bringing sinners to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Man has such a little part in the salvation of a sinner, until when God saves a sinner God gets all the glory. Listen to I Cor. 1:27-29, "God that shows in the foolish... weak... base things of the world, ... and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: that no flesh should glory in his presence." Let me tell you something, my friend: God never saves a sinner until He gets all the glory! That's right! And there are no hard cases with God.

Now you may think certain individuals cannot be saved, and you may consigned them to Hell and sit on the lid, but God will blow the lid off to get them out in spite of you, me, or anybody else! Listen to John 6:63, "It is the Spirit that quickeneth (maketh alive)" – not the preacher, not the evangelist. Listen again, "It is the Spirit that quickeneth (maketh alive); the flesh profiteth nothing." It is not the preacher, not what the preacher says, nor how he says it, nor is it the manner in which he says it, nor illustrations he may use; it is not anything that anyone can do that quickens a sinner. It is the work of the Holy Spirit. He may do it when a preacher is a thousand miles away. Yes, sir! That sinner may be reading a message: that sinner may be reading God's Word; that sinner may be listening to the radio, there alone, nobody knows he is there. His family may have forbidden him to tune in, but he is off in a corner somewhere quietly listening to that radio, and all at once the Holy Spirit thrusts the Word home to his heart like a twoedged sword, and he is never the same from that moment on. The Holy Spirit will bring that sinner to Christ in spite of Hell and high water.

Now, how does He do it? "By the foolishness of preaching" the Word of God (I Cor. 1:21). I don't care whether an ignoramus preaches it or whether a D. D., an L. L. D. or a Th, D. – or anybody else – preaches it; if the Word of God is preached and that man is born again, it is by the preaching of God's Word under the power of the Holy Spirit. It is the foolishness of preaching – the foolishness of preaching the Gospel – by which the Holy Spirit takes the Word of God and convicts the sinner and brings him to Christ, and He alone does it. Now you get that truth, and you hold it. Oh, may the Holy Spirit carry home the truth of God's Word to your heart! May He open your heart and mind to see what fools we are to try to take into our hands the task of winning a soul to the Lord Jesus Christ. We can witness, we can tell him what God has done for us, we can bring the message to his heart, we can pray for him; but that's as far as we can go. Now here is another fact we face in the salvation of a sinner – that work must be wrought in the heart by the Holy Spirit. (If you do not believe that salvation is an inward work of the Holy Spirit wrought in the sinner's heart by the Holy Spirit, I have no message for you, and the Bible has no message for you – it is a closed Book.) this salvation gives God all the glory and leaves man destrutted and deflated in the dust of repentance where he belongs. That's the reason Arminianism hates true Calvinism, because man has nothing to brag about or boast of: it is all the work of the Holy Spirit. Man is only an instrument, and what a poor instrument! God calls him, an "earthen vessel" (II Cor. 4:7).

You will notice that I used the expression, "true Calvinism." Some of you Calvinists are so elated and so puffed up with pride, and you think you are the only ones who have the truth and you are the only ones preaching the truth, until God can use you. Your message is stilted, cold, and formal, and God is not using you to awaken sinners. Though you may be preaching the truth, you don't know Christ as your Lord and Saviour. Throw away your religion, my friend, throw away all your stiltedness and coldness, and led God overflow your heart. Get down on your knees and then go to your pulpits pleading with sinners that they may be broken at the feet of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Sinner, let me tell you something – the greatest thing in the world is to know the Lord and to be broken at His feet in dust and ashes of repentance God help you! I am pleading for your soul, young man, I am pleading for you, young woman. I know Satan is fighting; I know he is doing everything in his power to keep me from bringing God's message, but, my friend, are God is on the throne, our God is able to break sinners.

Preacher, the Holy Spirit is able to break the hardest sinner at His feet. Let's trust Him. Let's abandon ourselves unto Him. Let's preach with that zeal of knowledge that only the Holy Spirit can break a sinner at the feet of Christ. God help us in this hour! It is the Holy Spirit who gives the new birth to whomever He will. Christ in speaking to Nicodemus said, "ye must be born of the Spirit," and the Spirit "quickeneth whom he will" (John 3:3-8; 5:21).

If the average preacher today had to rely on just the Gospel he preached to get men to Christ, he would never have any converts. That is the reason he has to add his little two cents worth by manipulating invitations to get men to walk the aisle, make a profession of faith, and join the church – he has to make a showing or lose his job! The Gospel he preaches has some similarities, but makes no unpleasant demands. He offers the same things the world does, only on a higher plane. He says and affirms that Christ is the only Saviour for sinners, which is correct, but he teaches that Christ becomes the sinners Saviour only by the sinner's consent. Therefore, he will give his invitations and so manipulate them as to bring that sinner to a consent to Christ, or make a decision for Christ, but, brother, he never asks that the sinner be broken or give up anything. Let me tell you something, sinners. Listen! I don't offer you an easy path, I don't offer you a bed of roses; I don't offer you anything but suffering, tribulation, trials, heartaches, and troubles, but I offer you victory in Christ Jesus my Lord. Sinner, may you be broken at the feet of Christ under the power of God's Holy Spirit. May God help you; may God lead you!

Some will go so far as to teach that conviction of sin is the Holy Spirits work (and that's right), and they also teach us that the Holy Spirit shows us our lost condition and our need of Christ (and that's right), but they will tell that sinner then to make a decision for Christ, come down the aisle, confess Him openly by giving the preacher his hand or signing a card, follow his Lord in baptism, dedicate his life to the Lord, live the best he can, and he'll go to heaven when he dies. Now, let me say again, That isn't salvation! It is only the power of God's Holy Spirit that will break a sinner at the feet of Christ and bring him to know Christ as his Lord and his Saviour. That individual may be sincere – the speaker may be sincere, but it does not keep it from being false. That isn't the way of salvation! Such an individual is blind and misses Christ altogether. Why? Because the emphasis is put on the sinner's intellect, on his will, to make a decision for Christ, not realizing that the sinner is totally depraved, held captive by Satan, and cannot choose Christ or choose the truth until his will has been delivered by the power of the Holy Spirit. He does not realize that it is the power of the Holy Spirit that gives the convicted sinner repentance and faith and gives him power to decide. Therefore, the speaker puts the emphasis on numbers, baptisms, programs, making a show, and the emphasis is not on blood redemption in Christ. Now there is your Arminianism; there is your freewillism.

You ask, "How do you know, preacher?" I was there for a number of years. I was a Calvinist at heart when it came right down to the heart of the doctrine, but I was an Arminian in practice. Brother, no one ever lived who knew how to manipulate invitations any more than this preacher did. I would get them out on decisions for Christ by the thousands! But that is also the thing that finally broke me: I saw they were not getting saved, they were not getting to Christ. There was no power in their hearts and lives to live the Christian life. They would go back to the world, back to their old sins, and I would have to go and drag them out again and get them to make another decision for Christ! No, that did not save them.

The Holy Spirit must convict of sin (John 16:7-11), because the sinner is dead; his will is shackled by his depraved nature, his heart is darker than the darkness of Egypt, and his mind is blinded. His eyes have to be opened to see by the power of God's Holy Spirit, and brother, when he does see, he looks within and sees the bottomless pit of Hell in his own heart and life, he beholds his corruptness and vileness under the illuminating power of God's Holy Spirit. Then he is made to cry for mercy: "God be merciful to me a sinner." It is there that sinner comes to know that he is a child of Satan, a child of Hell. He knows that he is bound by the cords of sin. He knows that Satan holds him prisoner. He knows that unless the Holy Spirit breaks him and delivers him he will never be broken. But when God unshackles his will, when God delivers him from the power of Satan and translates him into the kingdom of the Son of God, brother, he will never cease to praise the Lord.

It is only the Holy Spirit who can raise that sinner to Christ, and before he gets to Christ, he may make a thousand decisions for Christ. There is one thing sure, he will always make his decision on the side of truth. Every time the Holy Spirit shows him a new truth about himself from the Word of God, he wills say, "Lord, that's right." He consents to the truth that the Holy Spirit teaches him as He brings him down the way of grace to the dust of repentance at the feet of Christ. Whether that truth is about Christ, or whether that truth is about his own depraved human nature, he consents to it and decides on the side of truth. Now that's the kind of decision I believe in, and that's the decision that counts. Those are the decisions that will keep his face toward Heaven, and he is making them because the Holy Spirit is showing him and giving him power to repent!

Now why does he always decide on the side of truth? It is because the Holy Spirit (and not the preacher) has written the Law of God within his mind (Heb. 10:16, 17), and because the Holy Spirit has sealed the instructions (Job 33:16) in his heart. And the Law of God that the Holy Spirit writes in the sinner's mind is identically the same that he finds in the Word of God. As he reads the Word of God, the Holy Spirit shows him that the thing he sees there is what is already written in his mind and his heart. Then the Holy Spirit seals the instructions or writes the Law of God into the sinner's heart – not "on" it, but "into" it; when He does this, the sinner always decides on the side of truth in Christ.

Then it is the work of the Holy Spirit to reveal Christ to the heart of that sinner. No preacher, regardless of how smart or highly educated he may be, or however much he may no how to manipulate invitations, has the power to lift the veil from that sinner's heart and to reveal Christ to that heart as the sinner's all-sufficient Lord and Saviour. Now that's so. Preacher, you can't do it; you don't have the power to do it. There is no preacher living who can do it. No priest can do it, I don't care who you are.

I know the average preacher doesn't know what I'm talking about. The average church member doesn't know what I'm talking about. A fellow said a while back, "Well, I don't preach on the new birth any more because the folks know nothing about the new birth." No, that's right – they don't – and the reason they don't is because the average preacher doesn't know a thing about the new birth, he never preaches on it! You think that, because that is all the salvation that you know anything about; and you will try to make that poor old sinner think he is saved, and you may convince him that he is saved until the Holy Spirit gets hold of him.

When the Holy Spirit takes hold of a sinner, you can't do one thing about it! You have to back off and leave him alone. He may not like it but you can't do a thing about it. When the Holy Spirit its hold of a sinner, and breaks that little religious covering he is hiding under and lets him see that he has missed Christ, the sinner doesn't know what to do with himself – you and I don't, either. Now that's the heart of the matter. That's the reason you get mad. That's the reason you count the work of the Holy Spirit in His work of conviction and repentance an evil. That is the reason you hate Holy Spirit conviction. Every Arminian that I have ever met – and I've met thousands of them! – hates Holy Spirit conviction, because he does not know what to do with a sinner who is brought definitely under Holy Spirit conviction. They will sit there and marvel – they don't know what to do with him, and I want to tell you my friends, a lot of folks who call themselves Calvinists hate Holy Spirit conviction just as much as Arminians do. I have preached to preachers who call themselves Calvinistic preachers – they believe all the great fundamental doctrines of Calvinism – and yet they will not have Holy Spirit conviction. When it gets under their old rhinoceros hide and exposes their unsaved hearts and wicked practices, they won't have it. They cry, "Away with him! Away with the man who preaches it!"

That's the reason you Arminian's hate the power of the Holy Ghost – because when the Holy Ghost brings a member of your church under Holy Spirit conviction, or brings your wife under conviction, you think you have to do something, and you get mad when you find out you can't. I have had preachers bring their wives who were under conviction to my office and then get mad at me because I left them in the hands of the Sovereign Eternal God and the Sovereign Holy Spirit to lead them to Christ. One preacher said to me, "You got her into this mess, now can't you get her out?" I replied, "I don't bring a sinner there; that is the work of the Holy Spirit." I can't get them out! I will pray for them, I will be true to their souls, but I can't get them out of the "mess" they are in, that is the work of the Holy Spirit. Arminians and unsaved Calvinists will belittle, cry down, make fun of, and try to disassociate themselves from true Calvinists who preach the Gospel under the power of the Holy Ghost, and to look to the Holy Spirit alone for results. I'll stake my destiny upon the work of the Holy Spirit alone in getting men to Christ.

The Gospel I preach is the power of God unto salvation to every one who believes (Rom. 1:16). It is made so by the power of the Holy Spirit. The New Testament preachers did not know one thing about giving open invitations; their whole message was one invitation to a sinner to come to Christ. They preached the Gospel under the power of God's Holy Spirit and left the results with Him to bring men to Christ. Now, preacher, are you willing to do that thing? I am. That is the only way I know to do – just preach the Gospel in the power of God's Holy Spirit and then leave the results with Him. I leave the results of this message in the hands of everyone who has heard it. If you turn the truth down and go to Hell, that's your fault – not mine. If God brings you to Christ, I will rejoice with you throughout eternity. The greatest thing in the world is to know Him, and brother, when the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Triune God, brings you down in the dust of repentance broken at the feet of Christ crying for mercy, "Lord, be merciful to me a sinner," it is there that the Holy Spirit opens your eyes and reveals Christ to your heart as your Lord and your Saviour. There you see your sins upon Him who died for you, who paid your sin-debt in full, and God cannot collect a sin-debt twice – from your Surety and then from you. May God help us in this hour!




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