Who Do the Calvinists Say Receives the Promises of the Covenant?
Taken from the sermon notes of Pastor Don Elmore
October 2, 2022
Scripture Reading: Matthew 24:24
There shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.”
I am going to examine part of two articles of two of Calvinist’s great modern-day theologians, R.C. Sproul and Loraine Boettner.
R. C. Sproul (1939-2017)
The mission, passion, and purpose of R.C. Sproul’s life was the same as Ligonier Ministries, the parachurch organization he helped to found in the 1970s: “to proclaim the holiness of God in all its fullness to as many people as possible.” He saw his work as a filling a gap between Sunday School and seminary, helping Christian laypeople renew their minds as they learned Christian doctrine, ethics, and apologetics.
Robert Charles Sproul—called by his parents R. C. Sproul III—was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on February 13, 1939, the second child of Robert Cecil and Mayre Ann Sproul. An avid Steelers and Pirates fan, sports were a big part of his life. But at the age of 15, R.C. had to drop out of high school athletics in order to help his family make ends meet, as his father, a veteran of World War II, had suffered a series of debilitating strokes.
R.C. Sproul II—the most important figure in his son’s life—passed away during R.C.’s senior year of high school. His final words were, “Son, I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” R.C., who had watched his father faithfully read the Bible, had never read it himself and did not recognize that this was a quote from the Apostle Paul. He rebuked his father: “Don’t say that!” To his shame, it would be the last thing he ever said to father.
R.C. was reborn in September of 1957 during the first weekend of his first semester at Westminster College, a progressive Presbyterian school an hour north of Pittsburgh. Following freshman orientation, R.C. and his roommate (whom he had played baseball with in school) wanted to leave their dry campus to go to a neighboring town to drink. When they got to the parking lot, R.C. reached his hand in his pocket and realized he was all out of Lucky Strike cigarettes. They returned to the dorm, which housed a cigarette machine.
As he started to put his quarters in the machine, the star of the football team invited them to sit down at a table with him. He began asking them questions. They ended up talking for over an hour about the wisdom of God. What struck R.C. was that for the first time in his life, he was listening to someone who sounded like he knew Jesus personally. The football player quoted Ecclesiastes 11:3; “Where the tree falls in the forest, there it lies” and R.C. saw himself as that tree: dead, corrupt, and rotting. He returned to his dorm that night and prayed to God for forgiveness. He would later remark that he was probably the only person in church history to be converted through that particular verse.
Loraine Boettner (1901-1990)
Loraine Boettner was a Reformed Theologian, born on a farm in Linden, Missouri. After obtaining a Bachelor of Science degree from Tarkio College [Tarkio, Missouri] in 1925, he attended Princeton Theological Seminary where he studied Systematic Theology under Dr. Casper W. Hodge and received his Th.B. (1928) and Th.M. (1929). He taught Bible for eight years in Pikeville College, located in eastern Kentucky. In 1933 he received the honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity from Tarkio College, and in 1957 the degree of Doctor of Literature. He was a member of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.
From 1958 until his death in 1990, Dr. Boettner lived a quiet life in Rock Port, Missouri. For the remaining 32 years of his life, he generously sold his books at cost to any who wrote to ask for them. In doing so, Boettner made good conservative theology readily available at a time when such material was often difficult to come by. Through his writings, he served to popularize the Reformed faith and influenced literally tens of thousands of men and women around the world.
R. C. SPROUL’S LESSON
Upon what condition did God elect sinners to salvation? Was God’s choice based on the sinner’s foreseen choice? Simply put, did God choose you because you first chose Him? Would God be unfair if He chose some to salvation and not others? In this message, Dr. Sproul helps his listeners understand this hard, yet biblical doctrine as he looks at “Unconditional Election.”
We pick up R.C.’s lesson after skipping the first dozen paragraphs:
“I remember when I was a seminary student and I was deeply struggling over the doctrine of election, as most seminary students do. There was just something that didn’t fit for me. It didn’t sit right to think that God dispenses His saving grace to some and not to others and that the reason for giving salvation to some and not to others doesn’t rest in us, but solely in the determinate grace of God. That bothered me. My initial response was: ‘How can this be fair that God would choose to save some and not others?’
I understood that nobody deserved salvation in the first place. I knew that if God let the whole human race perish, He would be perfectly just to do so. I also understood that the only way we could ever be saved at all is by the grace of God. But I certainly didn’t think it rested this heavily on the grace of God. I thought, ‘Why would God give His grace to some people in a greater measure than He would to others?’ It just didn’t seem fair to me.
As I struggled with it and read [Jonathan] Edwards and other Reformed theologians, I still wasn’t convinced. I had a little card in my desk in seminary that it said this: ‘You are required to believe and to preach what the Bible says is true, not what you would like it to say is the truth.’ That put some restraints on me because I read this passage in Romans in every conceivable way, and I knew there were people who said: ‘Paul’s not really talking about the election of individuals here. He’s talking about the benefits of salvation that were given to the Jews rather than the Arabs. He’s talking about nations that are chosen not individuals.’
That didn’t persuade me for five minutes, because even if he were talking about nations, he illustrates it by the individuals who are at the head of that nation. No matter how you slice it, you’re still back to wrestling with one person receiving a blessing from God and the other person not, and you’re still back to it being based ultimately on the good pleasure of God Himself. It still seemed not right.
I’ve written lots of books and taught lots of courses. I know that when you set a thesis forth, if you’ve done that often enough, you can anticipate the objections or questions people will immediately raise to a certain thesis.
At this point, at least, I can identify with the Apostle Paul as a teacher because, when he was setting forth this doctrine, he anticipated a response or a question. He no sooner spells out the sovereign grace that is given to Jacob over Esau than he stops and says: ‘What then? Is there unrighteousness in God?’
One of the things that persuaded me that the Reformers had it right with respect to election was contemplating this very question Paul raises. I thought like this: ‘If Paul is trying to teach a semi-Pelagian or Arminian view of election by which a person’s election is based upon that person meeting some kind of condition; if in the final analysis it’s dependent on you, what you have done, and what this person hasn’t done, who would raise any objection about that being unfair? Who would possibly raise an objection about that involving unrighteousness in God? That would seem manifestly fair.’
I am sure that people who teach Arminianism or semi-Pelagianism and articulate their views on this matter have certain questions that come to them, and they have to respond just like anybody else. But I wonder how often people protest against their teaching by saying, ‘That’s not fair.’ I doubt they’ve ever heard that. I doubt they’ve ever heard, ‘Wait a minute, this means that God is unrighteous.’ But the Apostle anticipates that response. And what is the teaching that engenders that response? It is the teaching that election is unconditional.
It’s when you’re teaching that election rests ultimately and exclusively on the sovereign will of God and not the performance or actions of human beings that protest arises. Paul anticipates the protest, ‘Is there unrighteousness in God?’ He answers it with the most emphatic response he can muster in the language. I prefer the translation, ‘God forbid!’ Then he goes on to amplify this.
“For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion’” (Rom. 9:15).
The Apostle is reminding people of what Moses had to declare centuries before, namely that it is God’s divine right to execute executive clemency when and where He so desires it. He says from the beginning, ‘I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy.’ It is not, ‘On those who meet my conditions,’ but, ‘Upon those whom I am pleased to bestow the benefit.’
I like to draw a picture on the blackboard of a group of stick figures. These people represent the masses of the human race. I’ll put six stick figures on the board, and I’ll put a circle around three of them and another circle around the other three. The circle on the left represents the people who receive this unspeakable gift of divine grace in election, and the circle on the right represents those who do not.
If God sovereignly chooses to bestow His grace on some sinners [of people of all races] and withhold His grace from other sinners [of people of all races], is there any violation of justice in this? If we look at those on the right, who do not receive this gift, do they receive something they do not deserve? Of course not. If God allows these sinners to perish, is He treating them unjustly? Of course not. One group receives grace; the other receives justice. No one receives injustice.
God, like a governor in a state, can allow certain criminals who are guilty to have the full measure of their penalty imposed against them. But the governor also has the right to pardon, to give executive clemency as he declares. The person who receives clemency receives mercy. If the governor commutes one person’s sentence, does that mean he’s obligated to do it for everybody else? By what rule of justice? By what rule of righteousness is that so? None at all.
Paul is saying that there is no injustice in God giving grace to some and not to others because Esau didn’t deserve the blessing in the first place, and he doesn’t get the blessing. God hasn’t been unfair to Esau. Jacob didn’t deserve the blessing either, and he does get the blessing. Jacob receives blessing; Esau receives justice. Nowhere is an injustice perpetrated. Why is that?...
SALVATION IS OF THE LORD
If you ask me why I came to the faith and why I’m in the kingdom and my friends aren’t, I can only say to you, ‘I don’t know.’ But this much I do know—it’s not something I did to deserve it. It’s not some condition that I met in my flesh. The only answer I can give is the grace of God.
You ask me, ‘Why does He give that grace to me and not to somebody else?’ If I begin to give an answer that suggests it was something good in me that He perceived, I would no longer be talking about grace. I would be talking about some good thing I did that was the basis for God to elect me. But I don’t have anything like that to offer.
If the Bible teaches anything over and over and over again, it is that salvation is of the Lord. This is at the heart of Reformed theology. It’s not because we’re interested in the abstract question of sovereign predestination and we simply enjoy the intellectual titillation that speculation on this doctrine engenders. Rather, the focal point in this theology, as it was in the T of total depravity going back to Augustine, is grace.
The accent here removes all merit, all dependence on my righteousness for my salvation, away from me and puts the focus back where it belongs—on the unspeakable mercy and grace of God who has the sovereign, eternal right to have mercy upon whom He will have mercy. It is not of him who wills, except of the divine will. It is not of him who runs, but of God. That’s where the accent lies in the Reformed doctrine of election.”
End of transcript of R. C. Sproul’s teaching lesson to a class on Unconditional Election.
LORAINE BOETTNER’S EXCERPTS
Before I make my comments of R.C.’s lesson, let us look at another great Calvinist—Loraine Boettner and what he wrote in his book entitled, “The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination.” In his chapter on Unconditional Election, pages 122-123, he writes the following:
“Thus we see that God’s rejection of the Jews was for a very wise and definite purpose; namely, that salvation might be given to the Gentiles [non-Jews], and that in such a way that it would react for the salvation of the Jews themselves. Historically we see that the Christian Church has been almost exclusively a Gentile [non-Jewish] Church. But in every age some Jews have been converted to Christianity, and we believe that as time goes on much larger numbers will be “provoked to jealousy” and caused to turn to God. Several verses in the eleventh chapter of Romans indicate that considerable numbers are to be converted and that they will be extremely zealous for righteousness.”
MY COMMENTS ON R.C. Sproul’s lesson, and Loraine Boettner’s excerpts from his book
There are many mistakes in R.C.’s lesson plus he said some incredible things. We will mainly deal with one very large error. Who are the recipients of the promises of the covenant made with Abram? One incredible thing that R.C. said, was “If you ask me why I came to faith and why I’m in the kingdom and my friends aren’t, I can only say to you, ‘I don’t know.’”
R.C. didn’t know why he was in the kingdom. But he didn’t even identify what kingdom he was in? Was it the Babylonian kingdom, or the Egyptian kingdom, or the Assyrian kingdom, or the British kingdom, or the Jewish kingdom or what kingdom? If he would have identified what kingdom he was in, it would have been the first step in finding out what the reason was that he was in that kingdom.
R.C., no doubt, meant that he was in the “kingdom of God”. But he couldn’t really explain it because he believed that the kingdom of God was Jewish. But how could the kingdom of God be Jewish since the Jews murdered and rejected the king of that kingdom? They even plotted the murder of Him many times in the Holy Scripture. For example:
The New Testament repeats its charge of Jewish guilt in about 40 different passages. Nothing could be clearer than before the crucifixion the pharisaic leaders were wanting to kill Jesus and maneuvering toward that end. Fairly soon in Jesus ministry we are told the Pharisees “planned together to kill Him” (John 11:47-53, John 18:14). Their goal was to have Him “delivered to the chief priest and condemned to death” (Mark 10:33, Matthew 20:18-19, Luke 18:31-33). “And they plotted together to seize Jesus by stealth and to kill Him” (Matthew 26:4, Luke 22:2, John 7:1).
This was “to obtain false testimony against Jesus in order that they might put Him to death” (Matthew 26:59). Because their intention was obvious, Jesus asked them, “Why do you seek to kill Me?” (John 7:19). It was obvious also to the people, who asked, “Is not this the man they are seeking to kill?” (John 7:25). Accordingly, the “chief priests and elders took counsel against Jesus to put Him to death” and “delivered Him to Pilate” (Matthew 27:1-2, Mark 15:1, Luke 23:1).
The Jews even deny that He was/is divine. That makes them the anti-Christs! So, how could the kingdom of God be Jewish?
Since, the Calvinists believe that the gospel message switched after the resurrection of Jesus to mainly non-Jews, there had to be diversity in the Calvinistic interpretations of Israel. There is room in the tradition for seeing a future for Jewish Israel [Jews] and its land, while at the same time holding to Calvin’s insistence that the church has inherited many of the promises made to Old Testament Israel [Jews].
John Calvin wrote that because the Jews did not “reciprocate” as willing partners in God’s covenant, “they deserve to be repudiated” (Institutes 4.2.3). There is only one covenant for Calvin, so the new covenant did not replace the old; yet the church is the new recipient of the Old Testament promises made to Jewish Israel. There is no continuing corporate election of Israel, only election of individual Israelites [Jews] who accept Christ (Institutes 3.21.6). After Jesus’s resurrection, then, there is no future for the people or land of Israel that makes any theological difference.
But Calvin ignored this New Testament verse which repeated Jeremiah 31:31.
Hebrews 8:8: “For finding fault with them, he saith, BEHOLD, THE DAYS COME, SAITH THE LORD, WHEN I WILL MAKE A NEW COVENANT WITH THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL, AND WITH THE HOUSE OF JUDAH.”
Question: What church was the new recipient of the Old Testament promises made to Jewish Israel?
It would have to be a church that was present in Calvin’s time or would be a believer in what Calvin taught in the future. So, if that is true, it would be the Reformed and Presbyterian churches. It couldn’t be all the other churches that began after Calvin was alive—Church of Christ, Christian Church, Mormon, Jehovah Witness, Methodist, Episcopal, etc.
Jehan Cauvin was born in Noyon, Picardy, France in 1509. He died 55 years later in Geneva, Switzerland. He was financed by Jews after Martin Luther lost their support after he read the Talmud, the Jewish holy book. After reading this book, Luther became very anti-Jewish; preaching against usury and indicating that the extortioners be expel from all the Christian lands.
Calvin, after Luther changed his opinion on the Jews, gathered his major financial support of the anti-Christ Jews. He remained supportive of their usury practices and even stated that God could choose some of them to salvation. He stated that the church was the new recipient of the promises that were made to the Jews in the old covenant.
Let’s examine what Calvin taught; for Christian Identity believes that it wasn’t the church that became the new recipient, but that Israel (not the Jews) remained the recipient of the promises that were made in the everlasting covenant that was made with Abram. The recipients were as everlasting as the promises in the covenant.
Replacement Theology is common in Western churches. It teaches that, since the Jews were scattered amongst the nations due to their rejection of God’s way, then the Christian church has replaced national Israel regarding the plan, purpose, and promises of God.
WHAT ARE THE PROMISES?
What were the promises that were made to Abram (Abraham) in the covenant that God made with him?
- Abram would become a great nation (Genesis 12:2).
- All the families of the earth would be blessed in Abram. (Genesis 12:3). Is that all the families that are living in the world [all races without exception] or is it all the families of the covenant living in a portion of the land?
- Abram’s physical descendants would possess the land of Canaan (Genesis 13:14-15).
- Abram’s physical descendants would become many people [not all people] (Genesis 13:16; 15:1-5).
- Abram’s physical descendants would become many nations [not all nations] (Genesis 17:5-6).
- Abram’s physical descendants would produce kings [not all the kings] (Genesis 17:6).
- Abram’s physical descendants would possess the gate of their enemies (Genesis 22:17).
Do all these seven promises that God made to Abraham, then confirmed them to Isaac and Jacob and Jacob/Israel’s descendants now apply to the Presbyterians and Reform or even to other churches? How can a church become a multitude of people like the dust of the earth? Or become a nation and a company of nations? Or have kings come from them? Or possess the land given to Abraham and Isaac?
But on page 138, Boettner says that the promise now belongs to the multi-racial church.
“The promise was given to Abraham that his posterity should be a vast multitude,--‘In blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heavens, and as the sand which is upon the sea-shore,” Genesis 22:17; “I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth; so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then may thy seed also be numbered,” Genesis 13:16.
And in the New Testament we discover that this promise refers not merely to the Jews as a separate people, but that those who are Christians [of all races] are in the highest sense the true ‘sons of Abraham.’ ‘Know therefore, that they that are of faith, the same are sons of Abraham’; and again, ‘If ye are Christ’s then are ye Abraham’s seed, heirs according to promise,’ Galatians 3:7, 29.”
What! Who was the book of Galatians written to? Jews? Gentiles? Africans? Orientals? Canaanites? Who?
It was written to Paul’s brethren—Israelites [not Jews] who were in the church at Galatia in the country of Turkey (1:2).
Galatians 1:2: “And all the brethren which are with me, unto the churches of Galatia:”
And in chapter 3, it says in verse 16:
Galatians 3:16: “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, AND TO THY SEED, which is Christ [anointed]”.
This verse was talking about Abraham and the women who bore his children. He had three women that he slept with (many), but only one (Sarah) would produce the anointed seed--Isaac. Ishmael would not be of the anointed seed, for he was born by Hagar. Genesis 26 lists the six children that Keturah bore to Abraham after Sarah died; (1) Zimran, (2) Jokshan, (3) Medan, (4) Midian, (5) Ishbak and (6) Shuah. They were also not of the covenant seed. Of the eight sons Abraham had late in life, only Isaac, the only son that was borne by Sarah, was of the anointed seed. His seven other sons were not to be considered as the covenant seed.
The covenant promises were assured to be fulfilled unconditionally by God’s love for and oath to, Israel’s patriarchs which were the reasons God made a conditional covenant with their physical descendants. The unconditional guarantee was given to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and was conditionally fulfilled to their physical descendants. If Israel obeyed the commandments and laws of God, the covenant promises would be fulfilled for the sake of their fathers.
Galatians 3:29: “And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirS according to the promise.”
What Paul says here in this verse, “heirS according to promise”. Where is the promise given and gto whom is it given?
The promise is given in Genesis which tells of the covenant that God made with Abram. The word for “heirs” is plural, so therefore the heirs are not the singular individual seed, referring to Jesus the Christ, as the Calvinistic sects strongly insist.
Paul had previously explained that those of Christ are those of the faith of Abraham. Abraham had believed, i.e. had faith, that the seed which would come from his loins would become many nations which would believe in the Messiah. This seed is according to the promise.
Paul had also explained that those of Christ’s are those who were guarded and tutored under God’s law, which can only refer to those same nations of Abraham’s seed which came from his loins: which later became many nations in the dispersions of the children of Israel.
Galatians 3:29 may be interpreted:
- “But if you be Christ’s are of the Anointed, you are of the offspring of Abraham and heirs according to the promise.”
- “But if you are not of the offspring of Abraham and heirs according to the promise then you are not of Christ the Anointed.”
Paul will reinforce all of this again in Galatians chapter 4, verse 5, where he says that Christ came “to redeem them that were under the law [of God]”. Only Israelites are/were under the Law of God.
There are many places in the Bible that teach that one must be of the offspring of Abraham in order to be of Christ in the first place. One such place is:
6) “And now I [Apostle Paul] stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God, unto our fathers [Abraham, Isaac and Jacob/Israel]:
7) Unto which promise our twelve tribes [kingdom of God], instantly serving God day and night, hope to come. For which hope’s sake, king Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews [wicked seed Judeans.]
Galatians 3:29 is a “if—then” sentence that is a type of conditional sentence which expresses a factual implication. “And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”
If you are Christ’s, you are also Abraham’s seed. Paul did not write that if you believe in Jesus you may be, or you could be Abraham’s seed, in the way the Calvinistic sects claim. Both sides of the statement must be true. If you are Abraham’s seed, according to what Paul had explained in Galatians 3:16, then you are of Christ.
The commentators of the Calvinistic sects isolate this one verse, and then they claim that it is a conditional sentence which expresses a hypothetical situation. But that is a lie. Rather, this is a conditional sentence which expresses a factual implication. These words do not teach that a racial foreigner can claim to be Christ’s and imagine himself to be a “spiritual” rather than the literal offspring of Abraham.
The commentators of these Calvinistic sects seek to commit history’s greatest crime:
To steal the inheritance of God from the true pure physical children of Israel and give it over to those who have no right to the inheritance.
Covenant theology is the only legitimate theology, and it is the core of what we call Christian Identity. It is the only theology which causes the children of Israel to heed the Word of God where it says in Isaiah to“Look unto Abraham your father, and unto Sarah that bare you: for I called him alone, and blessed him, and increased him.” Isaiah 51:2.
R.C. Sproul and Loraine Boettner were, I believe, men who tried to find out what the Bible taught, but they were not given the correct answers. They were misled by Calvinistic theology. They were teaching that the true descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob/Israel are no longer the recipients of the everlasting promises made in the covenant that God made with their fathers. It had passed to the New Covenant Church which has people from all different races in it.
It is the true Israelite church that is to proclaim this racist doctrine and the “gospel of the kingdom.” The promises made of the covenant were only given to the descendants of true Israelites and not as the Calvinist’s say, to the multi-racial church (and this even includes the enemies of Christ Jesus).
May God have mercy on our souls.
Blessed be the LORD God of Israel.