Effectually Humbled?

Calvinists argue, “If a person becomes humble enough to submit to God it is because the Holy Spirit has given that person a new, humble nature…” <link>

In other words, Calvinists believe that humility is an effectual result of regeneration. Therefore, one has to be regenerate in order to even recognize and admit their need for regeneration.

But, is humility the result of an effectual work of God?

It may surprise some to hear that I do believe God effectually humbles some people. I just do not believe those people will be saved.

Consider what Jesus taught in Matthew‬ ‭23:12‬, “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.”

Let’s consider the first phrase of Christ’s teaching, “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled…”

This is “effectual humility!”  God will effectually humble those who exalt themselves and notice that these “effectually humbled” people will be eternally separated from God. God does not effectually humble everyone!  He only effectually humbles those who refuse to humble themselves.

As Christ goes on to say, “whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.”

In other words, you must humble yourself OR God will do it for you in judgment. Yet, Calvinists teach God effectually humbles everyone:

1) On Calvinism God effectually humbles the elect unto salvation. ‭‭


2) On Calvinism God effectually humbles the non-elect unto damnation. 

You must ask yourself if this was Christ’s intent in this passage or any other? Is God responsible for whether or not you humbly confess your sin or is that your responsibility?

What does the Bible say? 

Psalm 18:27: You save the humble but bring low those whose eyes are haughty.

1 Peter 5:5-6: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.

Isaiah 66:2: “These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word.

James 4:10: “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”

2 Kings 22:19: “Because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before the Lord when you heard what I have spoken against this place and its people—that they would become a curse and be laid waste—and because you tore your robes and wept in my presence, I also have heard you, declares the Lord.”

2 Chronicles 12:7: When the Lord saw that they humbled themselves, this word of the Lord came to Shemaiah: “Since they have humbled themselves, I will not destroy them but will soon give them deliverance. My wrath will not be poured out on Jerusalem through Shishak.

2 Chronicles 12:12: Because Rehoboam humbled himself, the Lord’s anger turned from him, and he was not totally destroyed.

Psalm 25:9: He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.

Psalm 147:6: The Lord sustains the humble but casts the wicked to the ground.

Proverbs 3:34: He mocks proud mockers but shows favor to the humble and oppressed.

Zephaniah 2:3: Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land, you who do what he commands. Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the Lord’s anger.

Matthew 18:4: Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 5:3: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 23:12: For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

Luke 1:52: He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.

Luke 14:11: For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Luke 18:14: “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

James 4:6: But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”

The only time the scriptures teach us that God effectually humbles man is in judgment. Every other time it clearly places that responsibility on us.

NOTE: Some Calvinists argue that our view is a works (or merit) based salvation, but that is simply false. Humbly confessing your sin in faith, whether by effectual means or enabling means, is not sufficient to cancel our debt and earn our salvation. If it were, there would be no need for the cross. For more on this point please read THIS.

27 thoughts on “Effectually Humbled?

  1. Also, mankind is born already condemned by God:
    “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not IS CONDEMNED ALREADY, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” -John‬ ‭3:18‬ ‭

    God deliberately gives life to every human being:
    “Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created: and thou renewest the face of the earth.” -Psalms‬ ‭104:30‬ ‭

    Therefore, God creates every human being knowing they will be created under His condemnation and destined for His judgement. Therefore He has DECREED [by creating] that most will live their lives destined for hell. This is God’s prerogative as Creator and Judge.
    So given your “free will” doctrine, God creates men/women knowing that most of them would not choose to believe and thus go to hell. So does this make your God any better than the God that Calvinists believe decreed salvation for only the elect? God’s righteousness doesn’t depend on our perspective of righteousness. He’s still righteous even if He creates knowing mankind will end up in hell.

  2. Troy. Neither of those verses says what you think they are saying. As a result, everything you wrote after “therefore” is invalid logically. Forcing Biblical texts into your preconceived framework engenders real reading comprehension difficulties, does it not?

    1. Both of those verses prove that mankind is already under God’s condemnation at birth (John 3:18) and that God chose to create each person (Psalm 104:30) who is already condemned unless God saves them. Please explain to me Mal what you believe John 3:18 and Psalm 104:30 are teaching in their contexts.

      1. Look, Troy, at the context again of John 3:18. They are condemned because they do not believe something, not that they do not know something or were unable to use that knowledge to humble themselves and believe. Unbelief is a personal rejection after having been presented the knowledge or witness. It is not just the absence of faith. See 1John 5:10 – He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son.

      2. Thank you Brian for your perspective. But the fact remains that anyone who fails to believe in Christ is ALREADY under condemnation because we’re not born believing in Christ. Before salvation EVERY human being is under God’s condemnation and judgement unless they’re regenerated by the Holy Spirit.
        This also leads to another truth Brian..that God creates the baby in the womb already knowing the fate of that baby. Your theological construct has no purposeful answer for this spiritual dilemma. Whereas those who believe that salvation is a divine miracle [outside of mankind’s ability] only wrought by God Himself, can say that every baby born has a divine destiny that is totally and solely in God’s hands and He has the freedom to choose whomever He wishes for salvation.

      3. I am glad you brought up, Troy, the obvious need to clarify in what state people are born. You say, condemned, I do not believe so. Yes, we inherit a sinful flesh from Adam, but not his guilt. We only become condemned when with our own conscience we sin against God’s law, when it confronts our conscience. Our own conscience has to be developed enough to actually sin the sin of unbelief.

        I believe Paul talks about that moment in Rom 7:9 – “I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died.” (If you would like to read someone else holding this view, see Alford – http://biblehub.com/commentaries/alford/romans/7.htm

        It is true that God does commit all to a state of disobedience when they reach that “age” of accountability. So you are right that they thus become condemned. But He promises to show mercy to all, enlightening everyone, drawing everyone, because the propitiation for all their sins now has been made. If they reject that enlightenment leading to Christ they will die in their sins and partake of God’s wrath.

        Rom 11:32 – For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.
        John 1:9, 12 – The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world…But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God”
        1John 2:2 – He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

      4. Point 1: Mankind is born under the wrath/judgement of God before salvation as conveyed in the following verse:

        “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth [present tense] on him.” -‭John‬ ‭3:36‬ ‭
        -God’s judgement is PRESENTLY resting on those who don’t believe, which is the “natural man” without the Spirit of God indwelling him/her.

        Point 2: The Bible nowhere teaches or even alludes to an “age of accountability”. You’re either an unbeliever or a believer. There’s no third category where one is in moral limbo awaiting “sin consciousness”. This is mankind’s desperate effort to explain away God’s sovereignty in all things; especially in matters of salvation. Even if there were an “age of accountability”, what is that age and who determines when that person has reached a “sin consciousness”? We’re not sinners because we commit sin. We’re sinners bcus we’re born as such. We commit sin because we’re sinners. As Psalm 58:3 teaches, “The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.” This verse also clearly destroys the “age of accountability” teaching.

        Point 3: Mankind has assumed both Adam’s sinful nature AND his guilt post the fall. So Brian since you agree that mankind assumes Adam’s sinful nature, I will only expound on your assertion that we have not assumed his guilt. The Bible is replete with verses stating that mankind also assumed Adam’s guilt and therefore we need “propitiation”. In fact, the term propitiation conveys the removal of guilt through an atoning sacrifice. Jesus would have no need to submit to God’s wrath if it were not for our guilt before God. Jesus’ death removed that guilt passed on to us from Adam. Here are some verses that teach mankind’s guilt as a result of Adam’s fall:

        “Therefore as BY THE OFFENSE OF ONE [ADAM] JUDGEMENT CAME UPON ALL MEN TO CONDEMNATION; even so by the righteousness of one [Jesus] the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.” -‭‭Romans‬ ‭5:18‬ ‭

        “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” -James‬ ‭2:10‬ ‭

        The above two verses prove that unregenerate mankind is guilty before God and therefore under His judgment and condemnation. That guilt is inherited from Adam as is our sinful nature at birth. Remember that we sin because we are sinners; we’re not sinners because we sin. Our nature is sinful and therefore we sin. (See Mat 15:19,20a)

        Point 4: God does not show redemptive mercy to every human being. His mercy is demonstrated to every human being only through His creation as He “sends rain on the just and the unjust” (Mat 5:45). God’s redemptive mercy is exclusive to those on whom He has predestined before time to have mercy. For there are multiple millions who have perished without having any knowledge of the Gospel, except for the fact that God has placed in mankind an intuitive knowledge of His existence (Romans 1:19-21a) However, this intuitive knowledge does not save a person who has not been confronted with the Gospel message. “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”
        ‭‭(Romans‬ ‭10:17‬)

        Salvation is a divine miracle that only God can do. That’s one reason Jesus likened salvation to being “born again” because God recreates us spiritually and only the Holy Spirit can do it as He pleases (John 3:6,8). This is also why we’re called a “new creature” in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17).

      5. Thank you, Troy, for your thorough reply. You have represented the reformed view fairly well. Allow me to make an attempt at giving a reasonable, Scriptural response to each of your points.

        1. John 3:36 is about those “not believing” as being under God’s wrath. It does not say they were born that way, and as I mentioned earlier, “not believing” is seen as the result of a response to God’s witness in 1John 5:10.

        2. To say – “The Bible nowhere teaches or even alludes to an ‘age of accountability’” reveals that either you must not have studied this subject well enough, you dogmatically reject what others have shown from Scripture on this subject, or you are making an issue of the word “age”. I pointed you to a passage that I and Alford, and others, clearly believe is speaking about the moment one becomes guilty personally before God and dies spiritually. Other verses have been marshaled for this subject that you should admit at least allude to an age/moment of accountability. [Isaiah 7:15-16 – He shall eat curds and honey when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. For before the boy knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land whose two kings you dread will be deserted. Deut 1:39 – And as for your little ones, who you said would become a prey, and your children, who today have no knowledge of good or evil, they shall go in there. And to them I will give it, and they shall possess it.] Also, trying to prove dogma from poetry in Scripture is not wise, like you were trying to do from Psalms 58:3.

        3. You said that “The Bible is replete with verses stating that mankind also assumed Adam’s guilt.” I would be interested in discussing any such references with you. I have never seen them before. You also said – “the term propitiation conveys the removal of guilt through an atoning sacrifice.” I think you may need to do more research on the meaning of propitiation. Jesus did pay more than enough for the wrath of God to be removed from any sinner when they repent and receive by faith both Him and His atoning work in their behalf. John said – He IS the propitiation, not He WAS the propitiation. Remember, you and I were not born yet and had not sinned any sins. You are not thinking all of our sins were predetermined do you?

        Look more closely at the parallel thought in Rom 5:18. Because of Adam’s sin, condemnation became available to all, who with Adam’s nature, personally and willfully become guilty when they sin. Because of Christ’s sacrifice justification became available to all, who with God’s gracious enlightenment, willfully and humbly receive Christ by faith. If you want to believe that everyone is condemned automatically because of Adam’s sin, you will have to believe that Paul is also teaching that everyone is justified automatically because of Christ’s death for sin. I don’t think you want to do that.

        4. You said – “God does not show redemptive mercy to every human being.” That flies in the face of the normal meaning from the context of Rom 11:32 – “For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.” This context is about redemptive mercy. Again, the parallelism is important. If all are allowed to become disobedient and guilty for their own sin, not Adam’s, then it is the same “all” that are receiving mercy to aid them to seek salvation. You also said that – “For there are multiple millions who have perished without having any knowledge of the Gospel”. Troy, there is a number of strong passages of Scripture, like the one you pointed to in Rom 1, that demonstrate that God is using creation and conscience and other things to draw individuals to seek Him. And if they seek, they will be able to call out for His mercy and righteousness at some point. See Acts 17:26-27, Job 33:14-30, John 1:9, Rom 10:18 for a start.

        The new birth is a divine miracle, which I agree only God can do. And Praise His Name, He has sovereignly planned to give that divine miracle to any that will receive His Son by faith! (John 1:4-13)

  3. Sadly our modern ‘doctrines’ of men have left us as confused as were the basic Israelites in Jesus’ day. ‘Believing’ is not about knowing, holding, affirming or teaching ‘the Law’ or the supposed orthodox truths of christianity. Indeed, such ‘truths’ have always varied, depending on when, where and by what powerful, deceptive institutions your life is controlled. We so easily fall into Satan’s traps, fighting one another over pointless semantics, or fighting one error with another, all the while omitting the selfless, sacrificial love that Jesus calls us to. I condemn myself more than any other for repeatedly making this mistake.

    God calls each one of us to respond to the truth that is proclaimed throughout creation, was demonstrated in the life and works of Jesus and is planted deep within the heart of every man, woman and child: God is good, gracious, loving, merciful and desires that all flee from the inevitable deception and destruction that selfish, greedy living inflicts upon us and others. Indeed, the freely chosen evil actions of men demand a retributive justice that all know in their hearts is necessary, and yet . . . marvelously, God has offered one to suffer this punishment in our place, giving us a second chance.

    It really is that simple, and all we have to do is believe in Him and all that He offers, which is mercy, love and bounteous, everlasting life minus the sin and heartache we now know. Unfortunately, the Words, intentions and meanings God has revealed have been so corrupted by false teachers that, without the powerful, trustworthy Spirit of God to sweep away the lies, we will never get at the truth. Forget the doctrines, dogmas and false teaching that so effectively distort the message – God loves you, me and all men, and if we humbly seek him and desire to do his will, He will lead us in the ways we should go. I pray that many more will know and understand this each and every day!

  4. A point well made, brother.

    The beauty and brilliance of God’s plan of salvation is that it is contingent upon that which no sinner could boast. One can’t be proud of true contrition, thus boasting is excluded. When I was a Calvinist I struggled to make the distinction between the law of works and the law of faith. (Rom 3:27)

    Jesus is called by many wonderful titles but He is never called our Repenter or Believer.

    We can add Isaiah 57:15 to your list. Who gets to spend eternity with God…

    1. Thank you so much for this post Doug!

      If I might ask, was there a major turning point that you can remember, when you started realizing you were finding Calvinism lacking? Or was it a number of little revelations?

      Thanks in advance!
      br.d :-]

  5. Hi Brian,

    I understand Calvinism manufactures an endless supply of “strained” assertions in its obsession with marketing itself.
    But I don’t understand how humility can play such a determinative role in salvation, outside of the illusory world of Calvinism?
    I seem to be missing the point of this article?

    1. Br. D., I am not sure I totally understand your question. But the point of the article is that Calvinism wrongly posits that humility for salvation is impossible without regeneration taking place first. However, Scripture indicates that God requests of unbelievers to humble “themselves”. Most would say, I think, that humility is essential in any expression of repentance and trust which are both essential for salvation.

      1. Thanks Brian,
        Very concise and very well said!!
        Yes, I agree, everything in Calvinist marketing jargon follows one long myopic line of reasoning. And its interesting to watch how obsessed they get about sugar-coating it in order to make it palatable! :-]

      2. Pride, vanity, selfishness, self-centeredness, arrogance, etc.—all different terms describing the same or a similar state of being—are the opposite of humility. Persons with these traits are the least likely to give up their own pleasures for the sake of others or a higher cause. That’s why it’s very hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Remember the rich young ruler who kept the commandments from his youth but could not give up his wealth to follow Jesus. The humble—those opposite of prideful and self-pleasing—are the ones who have nothing to lose, as it were. They’re the ones who repent. A careful analysis of the beatitudes shows that Jesus is describing the person who is humble and therefore teachable. The beatitudes are not goals to strive for; they’re entry requirements. They describe the kind of person who is not prevented by his own pride and self-serving spirit from giving all over to God. Humility is so important because its opposite (pride, arrogance, etc.) stands in the way of repentance.

  6. What is Calvinist marketing language:
    The language of advertising is, of course, normally very positive, emphasizing desirable aspects of a product, often by the use of illusions. Consumers know that marketing language often falls short of being “honest”. It is often the language of half-truths, designed to make the product appear desirable, by strategically hiding the WHOLE truth. Lawyers colloquially call obtaining the WHOLE truth: “reading the fine print”.

    William Lane Craig quote:
    ”Calvinists consistently FALL SHORT of enunciating the RADICAL distinctions within their system”.

    Dr. Craig, always the gentleman, is here – alluding to the language of Calvinism. Without accusatory-harsh criticism, he is alerting us to the fact that it “consistently falls short of enunciating” the WHOLE truth concerning itself.

    Hence – Calvinist language is all too often marketing language.
    In vain is the net spread in the sight of any bird. Proverbs 1:17
    Arm yourself accordingly. :-]

  7. Good post overall, except I disagree that being humbled by God necessarily means eternal damnation. I believe it is simply a principle that people who are proud (saved or not) will have to eat humble pie (be it in this life or the next), but people who are humble willl be exalted by God. We see this all the time as people’s lives fall apart when they follow selfish ambition.

  8. A bit late to the game here. I just watched Piper short video on 2 Chronicles 30. He points out that at first the humbling appears to come from man (v.11). But then v. 12 specifically says God is the one humbling the Jews that responded to the Passover invite.

  9. Its been my experience – generally speaking, that any hearts humbling towards God is always considered a byproduct of Holy Spirit influence. How Calvinists construe the human response is of course construed to affirm Theological Determinism, where every human neurological impulse is pre-determined, in the remote past, as that individual’s (quoting Calvin) “LOT” – and as such, pre-determined by the Theos. And conversely, if, (even under Holy Spirit influence) the person’s response is not that of humbling, then it is because the Theo did not pre-determine that humbling come to pass. In this view, human behavior is not the originating/driving factor, as it is simply a reflection of whatever it is determined to be, by the Theos.

    How the Calvinist seeks to resolve, the question of why the Theos would determine a person’s response to not be humbling, and then punish that person for manifesting the very thing the Theos determined it to manifest, is altogether another conversation. William Lane Craig responds to that issue as -quote “Universal, divine determinism makes reality into a farce”

    Read more: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/molinism-vs-calvinism#ixzz4pHQDIJ87


    1. Piper, of course, sets it up as God’s Sovereignty vs man’s ability to alter God’s plans. The context surrounding the circumstances is so loaded because of what the Jews and the nation of Isreal were going through at the time, that I’m not sure it fits inside the box the Piper is trying to fit it in. On a side note, I have about had it with the overuse of the word, sovereignty, also. It’s barely even a biblical term. Even when it is it’s not used in the way that Calvinists mean it.

      1. Excellent post!
        Yes, it has historically been said, Augustine drank too deeply form the well of Gnosticism and NeoPlatonism.
        Straining at the gnat of pelagianism only to then swallow the Platonic camel whole.
        And Calvin, in worshipful adoration of all things Augustine followed like a puppy dog.
        When the blind lead the blind, they both fall into the same ditch.

        And as or Calvinism’s characteristic double-speak which you find in Piper. For him to deliberate over “man’s ability to alter God’s plans” is simply a charade in Calvinism – AS-IF in Calvinism any such thing were ever in the least possible.

        Piper is speaking Calvinism’s double-speak language, designed to present the facade that in Calvinism man has a measure of autonomy where he is not under the direct control of the Calvinistic god’s radio control module, wherein immutable decrees control his every neurological impulse.

        Calvinists are very concerned about their marketing image. And the specter of man functioning robotically in Calvinism, has led them to develop their own unique spin language.

        Great thoughts!!
        Thanks :-]

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