To be called by Christ's excellent Name, not by that of one of His followers, is always best. The apostle criticized some of the Corinthian believers for saying that they were "of Cephas" or "of Apollos". He said Christ was not divided in this way and he was not pleased with a party spirit.
Names do provide us certain advantages, both to those with whom we are already familiar and those who are new to the territory. Saying that we are from a particular city or state, even giving the name of our street, quickly and helpfully reveals where we live and other personal things about us. It is usefully more specific than merely stating that we are "Americans."
If required to choose the name of a preeminent champion of Christ, the man who most carefully and accurately set forth His truth, we would prefer John Calvin, the Frenchman who was chased out of his own country by king and Pope.
Our use of Calvin's name is not meant to be an honor to him. Rather, it is a convenience to set up a framework in which to think, an over-all program like software in a computer. The premier Reformer's name is used in a way similar to the ways Lexus and Chanel labels have been employed. Their striking, brief message says - leadership, quality and dependability.
In church history we find uncountable voices singing, myriad drums beating. All have a certain pitch, not many carry a tune very well. Important names help us cut through the static and confusion. They identify right melodies and reassuring themes and tunes.
Serious believers associate Luther with being one of the first to admit his shattering doubts. They recall the brave and costly stand he took. Christians everywhere have been encouraged by his agonizing cries to God for relief from guilt and the answer he was given of "grace alone." Everyone would do well today to retrace the steps of Martin Luther in his uncomfortable but abundantly fruitful pilgrimage of salvation.
At present, fewer believers know what to associate with Calvin's name. They often have heard nothing or their only connection is contrary, disapproving - they've been taught a combination of severe austerity and heavy doctrine that should be buried with his musty body.
The actual theme of Calvin's teaching is the wonderful, the fascinating sovereignty of God. He showed us that not one note is out of place, not even the loudest horn is able to ruin God's symphony. Those who are out of tune are, in fact, sounding the terrible strains of wrath, but the main harmony overcomes their hateful, mournful dirge, their rebel chant.
Disk-jockeys still play "name that tune" and listeners who call in with the correct answers are awarded vacation trips or free tickets to the ballet. Recognition is valuable and necessary. Advertisers spend millions to make certain that we instantaneously recognize a product and its name or slogan. With the faith it is no different. Understanding and acceptance is a key factor.
A word frequently associated with the name of Calvinism is the term predestination. This refers to the sovereign determining of God and His righteous governing among men. As few of us are able to fully grasp the complications of high rule and responsibility, in the same way, not many realize the beauty and necessity of this teaching.
Planning and control increase with the size and importance of an enterprise. A chain of distinctive restaurants requires more attention than the man selling "red hots" at a ball game. Demanding tastes must be satisfied in both cases, but the restaurant menu must be fulfilled with more thorough strategy and organization. So it is with the infinitely complicated world that God has created.
Think about it! A conscientious homemaker writes down her meal budget. She wants tasty foods every day and to avoid having to end the month serving only buttered noodles. She, therefore, plans ahead for what each dollar will purchase. She orders her daily fare carefully so as to secure all the fresh meats, fruits and spices that are needed to make her menu a reality. In this way our lay-gourmet feeds her family well, shows her "right stuff" and gains the praise deserved. Good strategy is needed to win.
Planning and determination are the warp and woof, the essence of enterprise. As children usually underestimate all that goes into getting ready for a day at the beach, so young people misjudge what is required to operate a home. Marriage might seem as though it will be like a very long date. Catch-up planning is often necessary when something "unplanned" comes on the scene.
Larger governments, bigger businesses and civil commonwealths need extensive and accurate planning and determination. Again this designing and controlling grow with size and importance. Those who are found "winging it" very often are soon not found at all.
As human beings we do a lot of planning, plotting and determining. Our problem is that we are not able to bring many of our schemes to fruition. We are not able to make them happen. Often this is fortunate. Sinful natures and finite wisdom would wreak chaos and destruction everywhere if they could. God, however, in His sovereign and infinite wisdom is able and does bring His plan to fruition - always in perfect detail. The extent to which He does this is illustrated by our Lord in Matthew 10:29-31:
Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Therefore do not fear, you are of more value than many sparrows.
Calvinism is that way of receiving what the Bible obviously tells us at its face value. It gives us a majestic and full-orbed view of reality.
Being told that men don't call-the-shots is humbling. Men don't like to hear that their destiny is in the hands of someone else. Our total and momentary dependence for life and very existence, however, is manifest and should be admitted.
The Scripture ultimately is our sole source to learn this precious truth, as obvious as it is in fact and experience. Our logic is faulty and our conclusions heavily slanted to protect pride and maintain our licentious lifestyle.
Grasping this important perspective and rendering to God the honor that is due comes also by grace, the same grace that makes us gladly bow to His holy authority. Once laid hold of, however, it pays back into our hearts a peace and stability that fills all in all. It also provides a firm basis for a life of obedient service and godly dominion.
The ability to plan and determine in men is admirable. A well run business is a praise to its owner. For God to be certain of "causing all things to work together for good..." (Romans 8:28) in the immense enterprise He has going, He must control every minute detail of all things. Describing and glorying in this fascinating thought is part of the theme of Calvinism.
The point again...names, parties, status? NO! The point of Calvin and his exceptional insights has to do with the matter of sovereignty - how God actually does manage such a colossal operation as the world and its thousands of years of history. It helps us understand more about how God deals with people in their billions.
The Bible tells how He has graciously chosen a people for Himself and has set about to save them in spite of their sin and their guilt in Adam. Of the many perspectives from which to view this great Divine spectacle, John Calvin has done the best job of accounting and describing it from God's very Word. Many others have pretended to know nothing about God's absolute authority, His sovereign prerogatives. They have been overly fearful of offending man and quite thoughtless about insulting God.
We suggest reading Ephesians 1 and Romans 8, along with the Westminster Confession of Faith, chapters VII - XI for a more extensive understanding of these truths.
Genesis 25:22-28; Psalm 66; John 6:39,44; Romans 9:7-28; Phil.2:12-13;I Peter 1:1-9.
Rev. Dale K. Dykema