One of the main doctrines of Calvinism is that God alone determines who will be saved, and by exclusion, who will be damned to hell. That view is contrary to everything that scripture reveals about God and His desire that all should come to repentance.
But that is not the topic I want to discuss here.
What I’ve observed, and even realised about myself, is that many people who would reject those Calvinist ideas of “Limited Atonement” are no different to the Calvinists when it comes to other beliefs about God’s interaction with humanity.
What do I mean?
A personal example. How often I have taken for granted that my decisions will result in God’s will being done in my life? That I assume He will either endorse my decisions, or will somehow intervene and put a stop to what I’m doing before I become committed? That HE will “sovereignly” direct the outcome, even when I’ve failed to consult Him or seek His will on the matter.
A decade and a half ago I moved to a new town and bought a house – crediting God with the move, even though I’d made no effort at all to see whether that was what HE wanted.
In practice I was convincing myself that the assumed permission and lack of interference, was an endorsement, otherwise He would “sovereignly” stop what I was doing.
Gloria, my wife, pointed out another example of De Facto Calvinism that has far more dangerous connotations than my own personal example. In my case the only ones affected were Gloria and myself.
In the following situation the effects are widespread and far more serious.
Not surprisingly, considering the content of so much of my recent writing, I’m referring to attitudes to healing. Gloria recognised that they are no different to the Calvinist belief in a Limited Atonement, that restricts forgiveness of sins and salvation to an “elect” sovereignly chosen by God.
Those attitudes insist that God sovereignly chooses who will be healed and who won’t be. That healing comes down solely to the personal decision of God. In other words it is determined much the same way that Calvinists insist that salvation is decided: by Divine whim.
While common, that view is completely at odds with scripture in so many ways.
Firstly, scripture is clear on the fact that physical healing is a benefit given by God alongside forgiveness of sins, and is included in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus. (Isaiah 53:3-5, Matt 8:16-17)
Secondly, God commands His people to “choose life” after giving them the choice between life and death. That should leave no doubt about God’s will in the matter.
Thirdly, Jesus Himself, doing NOTHING that wasn’t the will of the Father, healed ALL who were brought to Him or came to Him. He later commissioned His followers to continue that ministry in His name, after He had returned to the Father.
(Mark 16: 15-18, John 20:21-22, )
Fourthly, God made available several different ways of healing, all of which require some kind of participation from the sick person, and the exercising of faith, either by the sick one or those ministering to them. Those ways include:
- Laying on of hands. (Mark 5:23, Mark 6:5, Mark 16:18, Luke 4:40, Acts 28:8,)
- Gifts of healing. (1 Corinthians 12 and possibly demonstrated in several cases of early church healings in Acts )
- Prayer of faith (James 5)
- Receiving and attending to Word of God. (Prov 4 Matt 8:8 )
- Faith of the seeker (Luke 17, and a most clear example Matt 9: 20-22 , Acts 14:8-10)
- Intercession and faith of someone else on behalf of a seeker. (Matt 15: 21-28, Acts 3, Matt 8:5-13 )
- By Jesus’ name and through faith. (Acts 3:16)
- General prayer for “whatever” (including healing), as long as we believe, and/or diligently seek God. (Mark 11:24, Matt 21:22, Heb 11:6, 1 John 5: 14-15,)
- Deliverance from demons, (Mark 9:25, Luke 7:21, Acts 5:16, Acts 8: 7,Acts 19:12,
- Special miracles of healing through “handkerchiefs and aprons”, or touching garments. (Acts 19:12,)
- Praying for each other. (James 5:16)
So instead of considering healing as something solely determined by God’s “sovereign choice”, or the domain of select people with certain spiritual gifts, we need to start believing and obeying God and His word, and take responsibility for those things He has commissioned us to do in the name of Jesus.
In the same way that forgiveness of sins, and our acceptance into the family of God are through faith, so are healing and any other benefit God has provided. They are through faith in Him and His word. Believing in Him, His generous promises and His desire for us to receive them. They are not awarded according to Divine lottery.
Instead of using “the sovereignty of God” as an excuse for our failure to receive from God, the following from Hebrews gives valuable instruction.
We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.