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What Is Calvinism?
L. R. Shelton

An audio file of this sermon is available at

I have often been branded by unsaved religionists as a Hypercalvinist, but I am doubtful if my critics know the difference between Calvinism, Hypercalvinism, and Arminianism. Do you? I wish you would get your dictionary and look up those three words – "Calvinism," "Hypercalvinism," and "Arminianism." These names don't mean a thing in the world to the average individual, but they are names for systems of doctrines that are being preached today. Let me say in the very beginning that I am an old Puritan Calvinistic Baptist preacher, but in spite of that I am branded as a Hypercalvinist. Someone held a meeting for me here, and he branded me as a Hypercalvinist. Let me tell you something in the very beginning – Hypercalvinism leads to fatalism, and Arminianism leads to despair, if you carry either one out to its extremity. But I am a Calvinist, because the Bible teaches those great truths as set forth by John Calvin.

As a rule, I never name the system of theology that I am preaching from God's Word – I never brand these great truths as Baptist doctrine or as Presbyterian doctrine, etc. Someone called me yesterday about a matter in regard to organizing a Presbyterian church, and I asked, "Are you going to call me as pastor?" They said, "Well, we've got to have one. Would you preach for Presbyterians?" I said, "I ought to. You are Calvinistic in your doctrine, whether you know it or not. Some things, maybe, I couldn't believe, but I would preach God's Word to you."

I am a Calvinist. A Hypercalvinist denies man's responsibility – Calvinism accepts man's responsibility as the Bible teaches it, but at the same time recognizes God's sovereignty. Arminianism on the other hand puts the emphasis on man's responsibility and denies God's sovereignty. I am also called a Hardshell Baptist preacher, which is practically the same thing.

In this study we want to discuss "The evils of Calvinism as seen through the eyes of an Arminian," or unsaved religionist. Many times, when I preach on the Sovereignty of God, I am called a Hardshell Baptist preacher; then when I preach on the Doctrine of the Holy spirit I am branded as a Holiness, and so on down the line. Then when I get to preaching with all the fire of my soul, I am branded as a old "second-blessing" Methodist. I used to say that you could take Baptist water and Methodist fire and have a revival, but today Methodists, as a whole, have lost their fire and Baptist water has become stagnant and full of wiggletails! Therefore we have a deadness everywhere, a spiritual dearth across our country.

Our subject at this time is, "What Is Calvinism?" Calvinism is a belief, a systematic presentation of the truths of God's Word as set forth by John Calvin, an old Puritan preacher. John Calvin got it from St. Augustine and God's Word. St. Augustine got it from the Apostle Paul, and the Apostle Paul got it directly from the Lord Jesus Christ. Let me make this statement, that Baptist today have a Calvinistic creed but an Arminian ministry. You Episcopalians who are listening to me, go back and read your creed – you have a Calvinistic creed. You Reformed Dutch have a Calvinistic creed, but many of you are now drifting to Arminianism. Take old-time Methodists, you have a Calvinistic creed – there are very few of you left. You Presbyterians have a Calvinistic creed, but the vast majority of you today are Arminians. All right now, you listen. I'll challenge anyone on every inch of ground with this statement, that Baptists today do not preach their creed – they do not believe their creed. Take the New Hampshire Confession of Faith, the London Confession of Faith, and other Confessions of Faith, read them – they are Calvinistic to the core. Baptists as a whole do not believe and preach their own creed. I will challenge anyone on every inch of ground with that statement, that Baptists today do not preach their creed – they do not believe their creed! Over a period of time Baptists have slowly departed from it and have come to embrace a system of teachings known as Arminianism, which has led Baptists largely to a position of practice know as Campbellism, and 90% of our Baptists today are Campbellites in practice. Now you look up that word "Campbellism" and see what a Campbellite believes.

Now let's notice what Calvinism teaches and see why unsaved religionists and Arminians hate the doctrine of Calvinism, and why they find so much fault with it. In other words, why do folks find so much fault with my preaching? I am being challenged now as having departed from Baptist doctrine; I have not! I challenge any Baptist who has any sense at all to take my 85 volumes of messages on different subjects and find one fault with them from the Baptist doctrinal viewpoint, from God's Word. I am preaching what Baptists believe – I don't brand it as that; I brand it as coming from God's Word. Why do you brand me as this, that, or the other? Why do you try to apologize for my type of preaching? Why? Because you have departed from your creed – you are an Arminian. In connection with this statement, let me present this question, Why didn't the Lord Jesus Christ, when giving His Word that we call the Holy bible through the Holy Spirit to individuals, make the truth so plain and simple that man can understand it? Now He did, if you are born again.

My friend, the Bible was written for born-again believers, and not for you unsaved religionists. The Lord God of Heaven cannot explain spiritual truth to the natural mind so that it can understand it. God Himself can't do it. The Lord Jesus Christ couldn't do it when He was on earth. My preacher-friend, I don't care how you try to simplify the truth of God's Word you cannot make unsaved religionists understand it. Now, that is what has led Baptists and others from a Calvinistic creed to an Arminian practice. You have tried slowly over a period of time to simplify and make plain, as you tern it, the truth of God's Word so that unsaved religionists can understand it, but you can't do it. Brother, the natural mind cannot understand spiritual truths; only a born-again believer can grasp and understand a spiritual truth. god has to awaken and quicken that individual who is dead in sins and give him a new nature before he can ever understand spiritual truth.

Only a born-again believer can grasp and understand spiritual truth! The natural man cannot understand it; according to I Cor. 2:14 the natural mind cannot understand the things that are spiritual, and that's why unsaved religionists hate the doctrines of Calvinism today as they do. That's the reason you Arminians hate it. You don't understand it with your natural mind. The only light the average individual has today is the natural light of reason. You don't have the Divine light, the Holy Spirit. That's the reason they cry down and hate the doctrines of God's Word that I preach, or that any other man preaches under the power of God's Holy Spirit. There has to come a quickening – there has to come an awakening. Now you can hate it all you want to, but it does not get you anywhere except to buy you a one-way ticket to Hell. That's all.

Let me call your attention to the first great truth set forth in Calvinism; and that is, every sinner is dead in trespasses and sins, according to Eph. 2:1, "And you hath he quickened (made alive), who were dead in trespasses and sins." You see, Calvinism and God's Word coincide, because the doctrine of Calvinism does nothing but set forth the truth of God's eternal, verbally-inspired Word. Calvinism believes in verbal inspiration, that is, that God's Word is verbally inspired. I've often been asked, "Brother Shelton, do you believe in the verbally-inspired Word of God?" I reply, "So much so as if God had handed down from Heaven a completely bound Bible as we have it today and said to me, 'This is My Word'." I believe just that much it is verbally inspired. "Well," you say, "I don't." I can't help that – I can't help it if you are ignorant. I can't help it if you are stupid. I can't help it that you don't believe it, because of your unbelief. God pity you!

Every sinner is dead in trespasses and in sins, so deeply buried in the dungeon of sin that only the power of God can resurrect him, and salvation is the resurrection of a sinner from death unto life. Now, I know Arminianism teaches that there is something good in every sinner, that the only thing you and I have to do is to bring out that good and bring that individual to a decision for Christ, and, "oh boy, he is saved!" Brother, that isn't salvation! The Bible does not teach that. No, sir! Now, that's a bible truth – that's a truth from God's eternal Word, and you as a sinner are dead in your trespasses and sins.

Another great truth that Calvinism declares is that man has a will and is not a machine, but that man's will is bound by Satan, according to II Tim. 2:26, "And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil who are taken captive by him at his will." I have been accused since I preach that God is sovereign and salvation is of the Lord, of making man a machine. No, he isn't – man is not an automation. Man is a free moral agent, according to God's Word, but man does not have a free will of his own. No, he doesn't! He is not a free-willed individual, because his will is held captive by Satan. Now every individual convicted by the Holy Spirit can say, "Yes, Preacher, that's so. If I had a free will I would flee to Christ without a moment's notice. I want Him; I believe that He is the Son of God." But your will is shackled, isn't it? Your will, which is held captive by Satan, has to be unshackled and set free by the power of the Holy Spirit, before you can believe. That's so. You see, man is a depraved individual (that is another great truth of Calvinism), according to God's Word, and has no righteousness of his own; therefore, he is corrupt and vile and wicked, and his depraved nature is under the control of Satan, who controls his will.

Man is totally depraved, but you don't believe it. You don't believe that man's will is held captive by his old depraved nature that is dominated by Satan. Nevertheless, man's will is held in slavery; it is held captive by Satan, and the will of man is not free to act until it is set free by the power of God. Now, brother, how many of you folks out there are smoking, and can't quit it! How many of you folks are drinking, and can't quit it! How many of you folks are committing a sin that you can't quit? How many of you folks would like to come to Christ, yet you can't come? How many of you folks would like to do good, and can't? Your will is held captive by your old depraved nature that is dominated and controlled by Satan! Christ said, "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free... if the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed" (John 8:32, 36). Now this Doctrine of Depravity as set forth by Calvin is a great doctrine of God's Word, but unsaved religionists and Arminians will not have it – they hate the Doctrine of Total Depravity. Therefore, man's will being shackled by Satan, held in bondage by his depraved nature, can only choose that which is evil.

Arminianism teaches that man is a free-will agent (not a free moral agent, but a free-will agent), that his will can choose good, and that he has the power to either choose Christ or not. Everyone of them will give you this Scripture, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever" will believe – whosoever will, let him come. Yes, it does say, "Whosoever believeth, whosoever will let him come." All right, it is true that man is responsible. Come on to Christ, you awakened sinners – come on! I plead with you to come, and you ask, "Well, how in the world can I come? I can't come. I want to come – I want to be saved, but I can't." Why? Your will is held captive by your depraved nature that is controlled by Satan, and you don't see that until God opens your eyes and lets you see it. Then after you are saved, your will is held in control by your new nature that is controlled by the Holy Spirit. You see, you never are a free-will agent – you are a free moral agent.

In other words, man chooses only that which is evil, and man does not seek God of his own will. This is clearly stated in Rom. 3:11. "There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God." Man of his own will never seeks God, but Arminianism that is prevalent today everywhere teaches that man does seek after God and has a free will to choose God. They overlook one fact, that man by nature is religious – man is a religious being. The fact that man is a religious being doesn't mean that he seeks after God, but he seeks after a god of his own imagination, a god that he has created within his own mind, and back of that imaginatively created god is a demon spirit, which he is seeking. All of your religious seeking, apart from Holy Spirit conviction, is nothing more than natural man in his natural, depraved state, held captive by Satan, seeking after the god of his own imagination, back of which is a demon spirit or demon spirits, which give him religious experiences and religious feelings, and which imitate or try to imitate the Lord God of Heaven, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. They can and do imitate every work of the Lord.

Unsaved depraved men and women, not knowing the true God, believe then that man is seeking after God because they've never sought after God themselves, but after the god of the world, Satan, which is behind the god of their own creation. Did you ever hear a fellow say, "All right now, get your faith image." That is a god of your own imagination! That is not the true God! Wake up, my friend, before it is too late. Now that is a pivot truth, and if you don't know that thing, brother, you had better get out of the pulpit. If you can't tell the difference between a man seeking after a god of his own imagination and one seeking after the true God, one who is under Holy Spirit conviction, you had better get out of the pulpit because you are blind, and the blind can't lead the blind, but they will both fall into Hell (Matt. 15:14). Now there is out trouble today. Brother, I am not ashamed of the doctrines of God's Word. I am not ashamed to stand up here, if I stand alone, and proclaim these great truths.

Now let's notice another great fact about Calvinism, and that is, that Christ died only for the elect in a saving sense. Now, I know a lot of you fellows champ your bits when I talk about God saving only the elect and Christ dying only for the elect in a saving sense, that He died only for those elected from the foundation of the world, which leads to the belief of a limited atonement. And you say, "I don't believe in any such thing!" All right, wait a minute; I want to show you how inconsistent you are. There is no such doctrine taught in God's Word that Christ died for everyone. If Christ died for everyone, and everyone's sin-debts were paid, there would have to be universal salvation. Now, there would have to be! There is a group of people who do believe in universal salvation, that Christ died for everyone and that every sinner will be saved and no one will ever go to Hell. Now, if Christ died for everyone, then they are right in their conclusion that everyone would ultimately have to be saved. Brother, if Christ died for every individual and paid every individual's sin-debt on Calvary's tree, then God would be bound to save every individual and to take every individual to Heaven.

Yes, that teaching of universal salvation is greatly prevalent today. Listen to John 10:15, "As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep." He didn't say He laid down His life for the goats, but He laid down His life for the sheep – that is, God's elect – and Christ died in a saving sense according to the Scriptures for only His elect. This truth is also brought out in I Pet. 2:24, 25, "Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls." So we see here that Christ laid down His life as the Good Shepherd for His sheep. Now who God's elect are only Christ knows, but He died for God's elect only. NOw, I don't know who they are, but He does. That's Bible truth that you can't get around if you have any spiritual sense at all. A blind dog in a meat house could see that.

Then in connection with this truth, there is another great truth that stands out in God's Word, and that is, Christ saves whom He wills. That makes Him Lord. Listen to John 5:21, "For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will (makes alive whom He will)." You see, a sinner is dead in trespasses and sins. That's our major premise that we started on from God's Word. We have to keep that fact in mind. A sinner is dead in trespasses and sins, and, preacher, you can't awaken him! Sunday School teacher, you can't awaken a sinner and I can't either – that is the work of the Holy Spirit. All right, who commands the Holy spirit? You don't. I don't. He is sovereign – He has a will of His own, and He "quickeneth whom he will." That's a truth that makes Arminians so angry – that God is sovereign and Christ is Lord – and they think that is one of the greatest evils of the Calvinistic system of doctrine. But that's God's Word. My friend, this same truth is brought out in Rom. 9:18, "Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth." Now you turn to Rom 9:18 and read it. That is in the bible. It's right there! And it is just as much God's Word as John 3:16 is. You put that down! Now either God's Word is true, or God is a liar; but the Word of God says, "Let God be true, but every man a liar" (Rom. 3:4).

Now let's consider that statement again that if Christ died for everyone, then everyone would have to be saved, because He paid the sin-debt for everyone and God cannot collect a sin-debt twice! Suppose here is an unrepentant sinner who is not saved, but Christ died for him – Christ paid his sin-debt in full for him. Now, mind you, He went over there and signed that bond. He paid that bond in full. That sinner one day comes up to the Great White Throne Judgment, and looks God in the face and says, "Listen, Christ paid my sin-debt – You can't send me to Hell. You can't collect that debt twice. You can't collect it from my Surety and them collect it from me." God would have to let that rebel go to Heaven because his sin-debt has been paid. Do you see how warped and twisted your thinking is? And yet you are using God's Word to support your own idea.

Brother, let me tell you something – God is sovereign! If I went to the bank and paid your note in full, the banker could not collect it from you. You have the receipt that I paid it; he can't collect it from you. If Christ paid your sin-debt in full, let me tell you, brother, God could not send you to Hell! He couldn't. Do you know that thing? That would mean universal salvation. How warped and twisted you Arminians are! I am hewing right to the line here, and you are going to sit there and listen to me! Yes, you are, and God is going to open the eyes of some of you to see the truth of this thing. God has laid these messages on my heart for someone.

These truths being facts, we face another fact – that the Holy Spirit creates, or gives, real repentance and saving faith in the hearts of those for whom Christ died. Heb 12:2 says that He is the Author and Finisher of our faith, and II Tim. 2:25 says, "God peradventure will give them repentance." Acts 5:31 says, "Him hath God exalted... to give repentance to Israel," and Acts 11:18 says that He "granted repentance unto life" to the Gentiles. So then Repentance and faith are gifts of grace to the sinner that God raises from the dead by His power unto salvation in Christ Jesus our Lord.

You ask, "Is there any hope for me?" Listen man – listen, little girl sitting there – listen, thousands of others who have been touched by the Holy Spirit! If God has touched your heart and awakened you to the fact that you are a lost sinner, then look to Him, because God paid your sin-debt in full through Christ. Why don't you just look to Him? That is all you can do. You can't pay that sin-debt, not one penny of it, so why don't you look to Him, and let Him show you that He has paid that sin-debt in full? Will you do it? Will you believe as He has awakened you and showed you your condition? That is the only way I know; that is the only means God has to save you. God doesn't tease a sinner. god doesn't laugh at a sinner that He is dealing with. Look to Him.

"Ah," you say, "I have done this, and I have done that." Friend, salvation is by grace, and not by your merits. You cannot merit a thing in the world before the Lord. Your sin-debt is paid in full and given to you freely. May God show you that thing today and bring you to rest completely upon Him and look to Him. It is Christ alone.

Now let me give you this closing thought. The great truth of the Sovereignty of God is the foundation doctrine of all the teachings of God's Word, the foundation doctrine of Calvinism. Christ crucified, buried, and risen is the central doctrine of all the doctrines of God's Word. Christ crucified, buried, and risen as our Lord, our Saviour, our Surety; our Mediator is the center, the central doctrine of all the teachings of Calvinism and of God's Word. Did you get that thing? Do you know Him? Is He magnified in your heart and your life? My friend, may He be today.




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