I have often wondered as I have watched the rise of ‘Calvinism’ or ‘Sovereign Grace’ over the last
50 years in America as to why there has been no associated spiritual revival in our country. One
would ordinarily think that the restoration of the preaching of New Testament theology would almost
automatically be accompanied by a fresh visit of the Spirit of God to empower, bless, and enhance
such preaching. As an observer and student of biblical preaching for now over 45 years I have some
thoughts to share on the topic.
You may or may not know that the ministry of the apostle Paul was greatly challenged at the
Corinthian church, that there were factions that debated the relative value of his ministry against
Peter, Apollos, and Jesus Christ. In his own defense and in defense of the methodologies of his
ministry, he wrote the 2nd letter to that church. In it he outlines not only his approach but the ideal
approach to the effort to minister the Word of God to both the lost and the converted. It is my
sincere belief that the more a preacher departs from Paul’s ‘model’ the more spiritually ineffective his
ministry will be. (I did not say ‘ineffective’ but ‘spiritually ineffective.’)
1. Paul did not preach his opinions as gospel but depended simply upon the open manifestation
of the truth of God as revealed in scripture.
2 Cor 4:1-2
1 Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not;
2 But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the
word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s
conscience in the sight of God.
Preachers who identify as ‘Calvinist’ have filled our world (and many libraries) with their writings,
many of which are filled with their opinions about many things that are not obviously and clearly true
from scripture. Sadly, many young Christians do not distinguish between the opinions of man and
the truths of scripture, receiving the writings of certain ‘big names’ in the movement on the same level
as God’s Word itself. Even more sadly, these men do not carefully distinguish for their audience the
distinction between their opinion and revealed truth as Paul did.
1 Cor 7:12 But to the rest speak I, not the Lord…
Man’s opinion mingled with the Truth of God and not carefully distinguished creates a mixture which
the Holy Spirit may not be pleased to bless.
2. Paul’s ministry was very much an ego-less ministry.
2 Cor 4:5
5 For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’
His desire was to create in Christians such a love for God and an understanding of truth that they
could function completely without him. But in our day some men have created an environment in
which many people feel that they do not understand a subject unless they have a certain man’s latest
new book on the matter.
Paul very much functioned as the ‘bond-servant’ of those to whom he ministered whereas, in my
opinion, many of the men in our day want to (and do) function as ‘lords over God’s heritage.’
Therefore, many modern ‘Calvinists’ are at odds with the Spirit of God.
3. Paul preached repentance to those to whom he ministered, addressing directly and powerfully the sins of his audience.
2 Cor 7:1-10
1 Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the
flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
2 Receive us; we have wronged no man, we have corrupted no man, we have defrauded no man.
3 I speak not this to condemn you: for I have said before, that ye are in our hearts to die and live with
4 Great is my boldness of speech toward you, great is my glorying of you: I am filled with comfort,
I am exceeding joyful in all our tribulation.
5 For, when we were come into Macedonia, our flesh had no rest, but we were troubled on every
side; without were fightings, within were fears.
6 Nevertheless God, that comforteth those that are cast down, comforted us by the coming of Titus;
7 And not by his coming only, but by the consolation wherewith he was comforted in you, when he
told us your earnest desire, your mourning, your fervent mind toward me; so that I rejoiced the more.
8 For though I made you sorry with a letter, I do not repent, though I did repent: for I perceive that
the same epistle hath made you sorry, though it were but for a season.
9 Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made
sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing.
10 For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the
world worketh death.
I have noticed in many preachers of our day a willingness to preach against sin so long as it is ‘safe.’
That is, they preach against sins which are clearly outside of the group to which they are speaking.
They wax eloquent and even fiery in their condemnations of sin but are careful not to stir the ire of
their audience by speaking to the sins clearly present.
Which brings me to my next point.
4. Paul preached the gospel of repentance in the same was as John the Baptist and Jesus Christ.
16 For Paul had determined to sail by Ephesus, because he would not spend the time in Asia: for he
hasted, if it were possible for him, to be at Jerusalem the day of Pentecost.
17 And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church.
18 And when they were come to him, he said unto them, Ye know, from the first day that I came into
Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons,
19 Serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations, which befell me
by the lying in wait of the Jews:
20 And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught
you publickly, and from house to house,
21 Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our
Lord Jesus Christ.
I have heard many Calvinistic sermons in my 63 years on this planet. I could probably count on my
10 fingers the sermons that I have heard on repentance. Oh, I have heard some magnificent messages
filled with much truth that blessed my soul. But, I have wondered often as the message drew to a
close what benefit there is in reveling in truth when one’s heart is at odds with God over unrepented
He who does not preach repentance to his audience does not preach the gospel.
5. And, then, there is the issue of money.
2 Cor 11:8-9
8 I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service.
9 And when I was present with you, and wanted, I was chargeable to no man: for that which was
lacking to me the brethren which came from Macedonia supplied: and in all things I have kept myself
from being burdensome unto you, and so will I keep myself.
1 Cor 4:11-13
11 Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have
no certain dwellingplace;
12 And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it:
13 Being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all
things unto this day.
Some years ago we dared to ask one of the ‘Big Names’ of the modern Calvinism to come and speak
in our city (a mistake I will never make again). We were told up front that there would need to be
a ‘guarantee’ of $5000 to secure the services of this individual. Now the man is wealthy and so is
his church. We would have been happy to make sure that it did not cost him money to make the trip,
but we were repulsed by the extravagant demand. I learned that day another reason that the rise in
Calvinism in our day has not produced revival, the love of money and the greed of preachers.
6. Finally, there is this.
2 Cor 11:13-15
13 For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.
14 And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.
15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness;
whose end shall be according to their works.
Is it possible that ministers of Satan have decided to propagate the doctrines of the martyrs for the
sake of money, prestige and privilege? When I look at the false doctrines that have been introduced
into the ‘movement’ by some and then tolerated and even promoted by others, I must conclude that
this is a very real possibility.
It is wonderful that the grand old Doctrines of Grace are being preached and that many are
understanding the principles of it. But we still stand in need of Revival and obviously there are things
grievous to the Spirit of God which must be corrected if ever we are to see it.
Respectfully submitted for your consideration,
Larry W Dean