If Jesus Were a Calvinist…

“What is generalized in Jesus’ lament over Jerusalem is personalized in the incident with the rich young ruler (Luke 18:18-23). The ruler asked, ‘What must I do to inherit eternal life?’ (Luke 18:18 HCSB). If Jesus were a Calvinist, one might have expected Him to answer, ‘Nothing!’ and admonish the young ruler for the impertinence of his question, particularly the idea that he could do anything to inherit eternal life. Instead, Jesus tells him what he could do: he could go and sell all his possessions and give them to the poor. Of course, this instruction was not just about the young ruler’s money; it was about his heart. He loved his money and the privileges it gave him, and he just could not live without it. In other words, Jesus would not grant him eternal life unless he was willing to make a total commitment of his life to God, but the young ruler was unwilling. Jesus let him walk away and face the solemn consequences of his decision. Noting the rich young ruler’s unwillingness, Jesus then comments about how hard it is for a rich person to enter into heaven – indeed, as hard as a camel going through the eye of a needle (Luke 18:24-28). This instruction provoked the disciples to point out that they had sacrificed much to follow Him so that He promised them a significant reward for their efforts (Luke 18:28-30).

Of course, if Jesus were a Calvinist, He never would have suggested that it was harder for rich persons to be saved by God’s irresistible grace than poor persons. Their wills would be changed immediately and invincibly upon hearing God’s effectual call.  It would be no harder for a rich person to be saved by God’s monergistic and irresistible calling than it would be for any other sinner.  But the real Jesus was suggesting that their salvation was tied in some measure to their response and commitment to His calling.”

– Steve Lemke, in Whosoever Will: A Biblical-Theological Critique of Five-Point Calvinism, (2010: B&H Publishing Group, Nashville, TN), p. 121

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