Can you have eternal life before you can get eternal life?
Now, this statement might sound like gibberish, and, to tell the truth, it is gibberish! But not to the calvinist who actually thinks that both calvinism and the Bible are true. If the Bible says one thing, and calvinism says something quite different, and, if the Bible is truth, then that definitely makes calvinism gibberish.
Take the above question: Can you have eternal life before you can get eternal life? Do calvinists believe this to be true? That great hero of the calvinists, Spurgeon, said so. He said that all who come to Christ for eternal life already have eternal life before they come. In his message “Free Will – A Slave” (based on John 5:40 – And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.) Spurgeon says under the heading “Eternal Life is Given to All Who Come for It” – There never was a man who came to Christ for eternal life, for legal life, for spiritual life, who had not already received it, in some sense.
Calvinists have to either declare Spurgeon to be a false teacher, or else admit that this is indeed exactly what they do teach. (Except that they try to avoid such clearly stated admissions as this because it demonstrates so clearly the absurdity of calvinism when compared with the Bible.) Calvinists love to tell all and sundry that a man is dead in his sins until he is regenerated (this word means rebirthed, or born again). Based upon their interpretation of Ephesians 2:1, dead men cannot do anything, even seek after God for salvation. They often use this to somehow “prove” that man cannot have a free will to seek after God until he is made alive by the Spirit.
However, here’s the problem for them. If a man is given life when he is regenerated (born again), then what sort of life is it? If it is life from the Spirit, then it must be eternal life. Unless a man has eternal life, he cannot live forever in heaven. Calvinists teach that once a man is regenerated, he will live forever in heaven. Thus, by logical conclusion, the life a man receives when he is regenerated must be eternal life.
Calvinists also teach that your salvation commences with God calling you (they term it “drawing” as per John 6:44), and making you alive through His Spirit (regeneration). You are incapable of doing anything spiritually good until you are regenerated (made alive by the Spirit; born again). You cannot respond to anything until after you have been regenerated. Before you are regenerated, you cannot respond to the gospel, because you are dead in sins and trespasses. Some calvinists try to say that the gospel is the means by which God calls His elect, but also illogically teach that it is impossible for you to hear and respond in any way until after you have been regenerated.
Thus, according to calvinism, you must be regenerated before you can hear the gospel, repent by faith, believe in Christ, and be saved (they prefer the term “justified”). They use John 3:3 to “prove” that you have to be born again before you can believe in the kingdom of God. (That verse does say you must be born again before you can see the kingdom of God, but, hey, why not just change “see” into “believe in” or “have faith in” and there you go, it does “prove” belief in Christ after you have been made alive by the Spirit. Typical calvinist verbal gymnastics!)
So what was Spurgeon talking about? John 5:40 – And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life. Spurgeon says that we must come to Christ to receive eternal life, yet admits that we already have eternal life (in some sense) before we come to Christ. Now, you might say, it’s just “in some sense” and not the complete deal. Then tell me if you can ever have anything less than full eternal life and still have eternal life? Can you have a few years less eternal life? Or maybe some limitations on your eternal life, like limited software that has to be unlocked by payment to receive the full software. Can you have differing degrees of eternal life? Can you have eternal life in some sense yet still have every benefit of eternal life? Are you possibly not fully saved for heaven until after you have believed in Christ and received eternal life? What if you were to die after regeneration yet before coming to Christ?
Some do like to suggest that justification (that is, being saved by faith, or being made right with God) follows soon after regeneration. Piper says that we must be born again before we can have faith and believe in Christ. We can say, first, that regeneration is the cause of faith…… Having been born of God results in our believing. (https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/regeneration-faith-love-in-that-order)
He also says that our faith, though it follows being born again, is closely connected.
The two acts (new birth and faith) are so closely connected that in experience we cannot distinguish them. (https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/what-we-believe-about-the-five-points-of-calvinism)
Of course, where in the Bible can he demonstrate that one follows closely after the other? And note that the order is still wrong: he still has belief (faith) as coming after being born again.
MacArthur also teaches that regeneration must be present before faith and repentance can occur.
From the viewpoint of reason, regeneration logically must initiate faith and repentance. (The Gospel According to the Apostles, MacArthur)
He also teaches that you must be regenerated before you can be made right with God. When it comes to how much time there is between God’s calling (to regeneration) and justification (being made right with God), MacArthur says “I don’t know.” He then suggests it might be like trying to determine how long it takes for a bullet to go through two sheets of paper. Firstly, he has admitted that he doesn’t know, anyway, so this may only be taken as a guess. Secondly, he has admitted that the order is still being born again before being justified (being made right with God); and no matter how quick it might be, the order is still wrong. Thirdly, he offers absolutely no Biblical evidence for how long this process might take (of course, there is none, anyway!).
MacArthur says: The word “justified’ in Romans 8:30 means “to be made right with God.” How does that happen? The sin in your life must be removed. God must take your sin and put it on Christ (Rom. 3:23-25). When He moved into your heart and called you to Himself, you were made right with Him. Some people wonder how much time there is between God’s calling and our justification. I don’t know. That would be like asking how much time it takes for a bullet to go through two sheets of paper. The distinction between calling and justification is theological; there isn’t necessarily a time lapse. You are called to be justified. The calling is when God moves to change your heart, and justification is the result. (Underlining mine)
So, to sum it up, Spurgeon above is admitting the calvinist teaching that a man receives life at regeneration, yet still states that eternal life is given to all who come (to Christ) for it. Now, this life received at regeneration must be eternal life and not some inferior life, because calvinists also teach that this regeneration life is of the Spirit of God. It must be eternal life or else it is not given by the Spirit of God. This means that while we must come to Christ to receive eternal life, the calvinist has to teach that this is irrelevant because he already has eternal life before he comes to Christ! Thus, according to the calvinist, Christ has become irrelevant in the gospel of salvation. Christ isn’t a necessary part of their salvation, for a man may be born again and receive eternal life before he has even heard of Christ, let alone believe in Him! The calvinist teaches that he is already going to heaven before he believes in Christ and is saved (and receives eternal life!). So where is Christ really in the calvinist gospel?? You could take Christ out of the calvinist gospel and still have eternal life!
So, can you have eternal life before you can get eternal life? Clearly calvinists believe so, which makes their teaching here gibberish when compared with the truth of the Bible. I challenge any calvinist to demonstrate (from the Bible alone – Sola Scriptura) the truth of Spurgeon’s statement above (or else admit that he was a false teacher). If you can’t then don’t bother. I already know you cannot do it. But you’re welcome to try, but just do it logically and by quoting no other evidences than from the Bible. Go ahead. Try it!
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