Does God Grant Repentance to Some and Not Others?

Does God Grant Repentance to Some and Not Others?

2 Timothy 2:24-26

 by Dr. Leighton Flowers

Well respected Calvinistic pastors and theologians often reference 2 Timothy 2:25 as proof of their claim that God effectually gives some people (those unconditionally elected before creation) a new nature which inevitably leads to their repentance. God, according to Calvinism, passes by all other people leaving them in a hopeless natural condition inherited from Adam due to the Fall, whereby they can only hate and despise the appeals of the gospel.[1]

Is this the Apostle’s meaning, however? Let us look at this passage together in its appropriate context:

The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will. (2 Tim. 2:24-26)

Why Be Gentle when Bringing Correction?

 The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition…

Paul is giving a young pastor advice on how to lead someone who opposes him to faith. He begins by stressing the importance of gentleness and patience toward those who oppose our beliefs. If Calvinism is true, then a pastor’s gentleness or rudeness will not in any way affect the ultimate response of the audience.  If indeed a work of effectual grace is being employed by God for His elect, then regardless of the temperament and impatience of the pastor the elect will repent and believe. Thus, the Calvinistic interpretation undermines the main point of the Apostle’s instruction to young pastors.

Is Repentance Granted?

 if perhaps God may grant them repentance…

Yes, repentance is granted, but “granted” does not mean “to effectually cause.” Therefore, this passage does not mean repentance is effectual or irresistibly granted to a relatively small number of people mysteriously chosen for unknown reasons before the world began.

We do not have a problem saying that “repentance is a granted” in so far as all good things are ultimately from God. Paul asked his readers, “What do you have that you did not receive?” (1 Cor. 4:7), which strongly implies that all our abilities, including the ability to make a choice to repent, or to trust in God, is given to us by a gracious Creator.

 Saying that God grants men the choice to repent is fundamentally different from saying God decides whether or not men will repent.

My next breath is granted to me by God, but I am responsible for how I use that gift, right? Likewise, we are “granted” faith or repentance when God brings the means by which we may believe and repent, but we are still responsible for how we use the gifts He grants.

So, when the scripture says things like, “So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life” (Acts 11:18; 20:21) it does not mean “God has effectually caused a preselected few of the Gentiles to repent” but only that God has sent the gospel to the Gentiles, just as he did for the Jews, so that they too may believe and repent unto new life (John 20:31) and be grafted into the olive tree (Romans 11).

Must God’s Granting be Effectual in order for God to be most Glorified?

John Piper, along with most Calvinists, erroneously assume that for God to receive the maximum glory for granting gifts that He must grant them “irresistibly” (in a way that effectually causes the recipients to take and use the gift appropriately). But, since when must a gift be effectually or irresistibly bestowed in order for the giver to get full credit for granting the gift?

If I were to buy laptops for all four of my children and three of them trashed it, or used it inappropriately (while only one of them used it as I intended); am I a less generous or benevolent father? Of course not. My children are responsible for how they used the gift I provided, and that does not impact my benevolence or my character in any way as their loving father who generously provided for their needs.

What would negatively reflect on my character as their father is if you found out I was somehow the “decisive cause” of my children’s inappropriate preferences and choices, which is precisely what Piper teaches in regard to God’s relation to those who rebel against His provisions. In an article titled, “A Beginner’s Guide to ‘Free Will,’” John Piper argues,

…God is the only being who is ultimately self-determining, and is himself ultimately the disposer of all things, including all choices — however many or diverse other intervening causes are. On this definition, no human being has free will, at any time. Neither before or after the fall, or in heaven, are creatures ultimately self-determining. There are great measures of self-determination, as the Bible often shows, but never is man the ultimate or decisive cause of his preferences and choices. When man’s agency and God’s agency are compared, both are real, but God’s is decisive. Yet — and here’s the mystery that causes so many to stumble — God is always decisive in such a way that man’s agency is real, and his responsibility remains.[2]

I propose that Piper’s view actually downplays God’s glory by presuming effectuality. On the Traditionalist/Provisionist’s view, where God provides the means of salvation for all people, God gets full glory for the gifts granted to every person, not just those who use that gift appropriately.

What diminishes God’s glory is suggesting that He is withholding what is necessary for people to repent and believe in Him all the while judging and punishing them for their lack of repentance and faith. If God is indeed withholding the necessary gift of repentance then what better excuse do those who do not repent have then, “God didn’t give me the ability to repent?”

In Mark 6:6 it says that Jesus “marveled because of their unbelief,” and in Luke 19:41 we read about Jesus literally weeping due to the lack of repentance and unbelief of the Israelites, and in Mark 16:14 Jesus rebukes his followers for their unbelief — as if they actually had some control over it.

Is Jesus being disingenuous in these passages while secretly withholding this so-called “effectual gift” of faith and repentance? Piper’s claim that faith and repentance is some kind of an effectual gift from God granted to a preselected few, while being arbitrarily withheld from the masses, makes much of the scripture completely and utterly irrational. For this reason, it should be respectfully rejected and vigorously rebutted.

What Specifically is God Doing to “Grant” Repentance?

 leading to the knowledge of the truth… 

God sends the gospel, His life-giving truth, so that people will know the way of salvation (Rom. 10:14). If we know the truth, and do not suppress it, then it will set us free (Jn. 8:31-32). So, God is granting repentance by sending the gospel of repentance, which cannot be effectively heard if the pastor who is speaking the truth is rude, impatient and belligerent toward those who oppose him.

In other words, Paul is teaching Timothy that the gospel must be heard by his audience if they are going to repent and believe, but they cannot really hear the truth so as to repent if the messenger is a jerk about it. So, by being patient and kind the audience may actually hear the truth so as to be granted the opportunity to respond and come to repentance.

What does Paul mean by, “come to their senses…”?

 and they may come to their senses…

Notice that Paul does not say, “and they will certainly come to their senses” but only “they may come to their senses.” Why? Because they have a reasonable pastor who is patiently working with them to help them know the truth which may lead them to salvation (see Acts 28:23-28 and 2 Tim. 3:15).

Jesus also told us a parable in Luke 15:11-32 about someone “coming to their senses.”

“But when he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger!  ‘I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.”‘and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they began to celebrate.

Notice that the Prodigal Son was said to be “dead” due to his rebellion and separation from the father, not due to an inherited lack of moral ability. He was able to come to his senses and return home in humiliation, but only the father was able to restore him as a true son. The idiomatic use of “deadness” in the first century is never explained to mean “total moral inability” as the Calvinistic system’s “T” of “TULIP” teaches.

What is Paul’s Point in Referencing the Devil if Calvinism is True?

and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.

Calvinism’s doctrine of Total Inability suggests that all people are born as “spiritual corpses,” morally unable to see, hear, understand and repent even in response to God’s own inspired truth. But this seems contradictory to what some leading Calvinists teach regarding the impact Satan has in our world.

For example, in an article titled, “Satan’s Ten Strategies Against You,” Calvinistic Pastor, John Piper, mentions this about the great deceiver, Satan:

“1) He blinds the minds of unbelievers.

 “The god of this age has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:4). So he not only speaks what is false. He hides what is true. He keeps us from seeing the treasure of the gospel. He lets us see facts, even proofs, but not preciousness.

 2) Satan plucks the word of God out of people’s hearts and chokes faith.

 Jesus told the parable of the four soils in Mark 4:1–9. In it, the seed of the word of God is sown, and some falls on the path and birds quickly take it away. He explains in verse 15, “Satan immediately comes and takes away the word which was sown in them.” Satan snatches the word because he hates faith which the word produces (Romans 10:17).

 Paul expresses his concern for the faith of the Thessalonians like this: “I sent to learn about your faith, for fear that somehow the tempter had tempted you and our labor would be in vain” (1 Thessalonians 3:5). Paul knew that Satan’s design is to choke off the faith of people who have heard the word of God.”

Does this effort of Satan strike anyone as being completely unnecessary if the claims of Calvinism are true regarding man’s Total Inability from birth?

If we are born completely unable to see, hear, understand or respond willingly to the word of God, as the doctrine of Total Inability suggests, wouldn’t Satan’s work to blind people and snatch away the word be completely unnecessary and redundant?

Conclusion

If you believe Paul’s intention in his instruction to Timothy was, “Be kind and patient when you are talking to those who oppose you because they might happen to be one of the elect ones God chose before creation to effectually save regardless of your methods,” then Calvinism may be the best option for you.

If, however, you believe Paul’s intention is to instruct young pastors to be kind and patient because speaking truth must be done in love in order for it to be effectively heard by those who oppose us, then may I suggest you leave behind Calvinism and become a Provisionist.


[1] John Piper, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dvzUpQTQH_Q

[2] John Piper, https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/a-beginners-guide-to-free-will

18 thoughts on “Does God Grant Repentance to Some and Not Others?

  1. Great article!
    (((Does this effort of Satan strike anyone as being completely unnecessary if the claims of Calvinism are true regarding man’s Total Inability from birth?))) Absolutley unnecessary & indeed completley redundant!!! So it confuses the Word of God which we know He is not a God of confusion even when man muddles His Word nicely done thank you 🌻

  2. Excellent article Leighton. Each of your six points on their own show the errors and irrationality and inconsistency with scripture when one reads this passage and interprets it with Calvinistic glasses on. But all six points together show the complete bankruptcy of the Calvinistic reading of this passage. Thank you.

  3. In Theological Determinism – does the THEOS *really* give people a new nature?

    Or is it the case that he simply changes their neurological programming?

    Calvinists sometimes like to claim that in Calvinism the fall of Adam brought about some kind of consequential change to mankind.

    But notice what does not change.
    1) Calvin’s god determines every numerological impulse that will appear in the human brain.
    This does not change pre-fall to post-fall.

    2) Calvin’s god DESIGNS the vast majority of his creatures for eternal torment in a lake of fire
    This does not change pre-fall to post-fall.

    3) Theological Determinism LOGICALLY EXCLUDES (makes impossible) any form of Libertarian Freedom
    This does not change pre-fall to post-fall.

    If Calvin’s god can be likened to a puppeteer – then the whole Bible story from start to finish – would really be nothing more than a show.

    He moves people about in a play world, pretending that they are real persons whose every motion is not in fact of his own doing

    He pretends they merit praise or blame *AS-IF* he wasn’t the one who meticulously determined every micron of what they will think, say, and do.

    1. Another great article Leighton – Thanks keep these articles coming and the short videos are especially easy to pass around.
      Your points make so much sense:

      “Calvinistic Pastor, John Piper, mentions this about the great deceiver, Satan:

      “1) He blinds the minds of unbelievers.
      2) Satan plucks the word of God out of people’s hearts and chokes faith.

      Does this effort of Satan strike anyone as being completely unnecessary if the claims of Calvinism are true regarding man’s Total Inability from birth?
      If we are born completely unable to see, hear, understand or respond willingly to the word of God, as the doctrine of Total Inability suggests, wouldn’t Satan’s work to blind people and snatch away the word be completely unnecessary and redundant?”

      GA:
      Half of the time the Calvinist sounds much like us and the reason is THE BIBLE actually teaches something different than what the Calvinist truly believes…but to sound biblical he has to say these things.

      When ever it seems like the Calvinist is agreeing with us we MUST always ask one simple question which ends up exposing what they were hiding.
      The question is: “And what part does God play in this?”
      When they answer this question we end up realizing they really do NOT believe what the Bible says and what we Provisionalists hold to. That one small question exposes what is hidden – if they will answer it honestly.

      Love your work Leighton….Keep it up. I have put many people in touch with your website and articles they are loving it.

  4. Thanks for that good post.

    Yes Paul’s admonitions here are similar to when he says that he “reasons with men” and “he persuades men.” Why would he tell us that “he is all things to all men that he might win some” if that had no significance?

    1. FOH
      Why would he tell us that “he is all things to all men that he might win some” if that had no significance?

      br.d
      Excellent question FOH!
      Why should he speak in the first person on that subject – if in fact he believes everything he thinks, says, and does, is pre-determined by factors beyond his control – by an external mind – and he has absolutely no say in the matter?

      The vast majority of the language of scripture always follows a conceptional trajectory that is tangential to determinism.
      One has to embrace logical incoherence in order to see it otherwise.

      Perhaps Calvin assumed that all of the writers of scripture practice going about their daily lives MAKING-BELIEVE nothing is determined in any part.

  5. Satan is Calvi God’s sock puppet. One of Calvinism’s biggest Bible problems is what to do with Satan, since everything he does is scripted by Calvi God.

    1. That certainly is true Carl

      Notice how honest Calvin is on this topic – you’ll *NEVER* hear a Calvinist say this today
      -quote
      “The devil, and the whole train of the ungodly…….can neither conceive any mischief, nor plan what they have conceived, nor how they may have planned, move a single finger to perpetrate, unless in so far as…..He COMMANDS.
      They are not only bound by His fetters but are even FORCED to do Him service.” (Institutes I, 17, 11)

      However the bigger problem for Calvinists is the problem of Adam’s sin in the garden
      In Theological Determinism (aka Calvinism) it LOGICALLY follows:
      1) Calvin’s god DID NOT PERMIT Adam to disobey his SECRET will
      2) Calvin’s god DID NOT PERMIT Adam to obey his ENUNCIATED will
      3) Calvin’s god DID NOT make available Adam any alternative

  6. Job 1 as read thru the Calvinist interpretation of Romans 1:

    Satan and CalviGod in the throneroom:

    CalviGod: “Have you seen Job, that worm? He thinks he fears me and is blameless and upright. All his “good works” are filthy rags…FILLTHHYYY RAAAAGGGSSS! Go down there, Satan, and give Job a dose of sovereignty. That’s right…a good, hard dose of SOVEREIGNTY! Grind him down, Satan! Show him who’s boss around here. I am really ANGRY about Job’s attempts at righteousness! In my eyes he’s nothing but filth!”

    Yet another example of Calvinism’s trouble with the Bible.

    The Calvinist doesn’t know what to make of God saying, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”

    Well, Calvinist, is God lying? Or should you revisit how you interpret Romans 1?

  7. God is Blessing you,and i am so grateful for your humility. You also encourage me to pray for calvinists instead of becoming cynical

    1. Steven, all three are possible simultaneously One can pray for the Calvinists to see the truth, cynically and with humility.

      If I were convinced Calvinism was the truth, I would believe in God, but would not be a Christian. (Although, if Calvinism was true, I couldn’t choose anything, being totally controlled by God)

  8. “The god of this age has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:4).

    If Calvinism were true and if God causes/controls EVERYTHING that happens for His own glory – even making sure people are unbelievers so that they go to hell – then isn’t God giving credit to Satan for what God essentially and ultimately did (blinding people)? And then wouldn’t that be God sharing His glory with Satan, by crediting to Satan what God Himself caused for His own glory?

    Also, I find it interesting that John Calvin (in his Institutes, Book 1, Chapter 14, Section 15) says that Satan’s goal is to extinguish God’s glory. Yet Calvi-god supposedly causes EVERYTHING that happens for his own glory. So if Calvi-god actively and meticulously controls Satan, as Calvin believes, then Calvi-god is causing Satan to try to extinguish Calvi-god’s glory, for Calvi-god’s glory. Interesting. Self-sabotaging. Schizophrenic.

    1. Heather this is a powerful statement by you:
      “If Calvinism were true and if God causes/controls EVERYTHING that happens for His own glory – even making sure people are unbelievers so that they go to hell – then isn’t God giving credit to Satan for what God essentially and ultimately did (blinding people)? And then wouldn’t that be God sharing His glory with Satan, by crediting to Satan what God Himself caused for His own glory?”

      GA — Great stuff keep posting I enjoy your insights.

  9. THEOLOGICAL DETERMINISM AND RATIONAL CHOICE THEORY

    A RANGE OF OPTIONS:
    Rational choice theory focuses on the behavior of individuals during decision making, and determinants of an individual’s choices within that process.

    Rational choice theory assumes that an individual has preferences among available choice alternatives. The individual is allowed to select that option which he/she prefers among an existing range of options.

    SELF-DETERMINED BEST CHOICE OF ACTION:
    When we add the processes of rationality to this – the rational agent is assumed to take account of available information, probabilities of events, and potential costs and benefits in determining preferences, and to act consistently in making what is called: “A self-determined best choice of action”.

    However, since Theological Determinism precludes PAP (Principles of Alternative Possibilities), it follows alternative possibilities do not exist for an individual to choose from. According to Theological Determinism a THEOS at the foundation of the world determines a person’s choice *FOR* that person.

    This model of choice-making appears similar to one we would find with hypnosis. The hypnotist inputs a projection into the mind of the person under hypnosis as to which choice to make. The hypnotized person in this case simply is “caused” to make a specific choice, which the hypnotist determined him/her make. In this case, the mechanism of choice-making involves a transmission of the determined choice from the mind of the hypnotist to the mind of the hypnotized person.

    Adherents of Theological Determinism will typically assert that the mechanisms by which the THEOS transmits a determined choice from his mind, into the mind of an individual in order to “cause” that individual’s choice, are unknown. However, even though the mechanics of choice transmission is unknown, it is still obvious that a CAUSE-&-EFFECT process is the working model in both cases, and the end-result is the same.

    It is also universally acknowledged that according to Theological Determinism our choices are not UP TO US, as they are “caused” by determinative factors beyond our control. In this case, determinative factor(s) and their source are a THEOS.

    Since Rational choice requires PAP – (Alternative Possibilities), which does not exist within Theological Determinism – it follows the human function of Rational choice within the scheme of Theological Determinism is logically impossible.

    Additionally, since there is no range of options from which to choose from, there is no such thing as a “best” choice.
    And since Rational Choice is stated as a: “self-determined best choice of action” it follows there is no such thing as Rational Choice within Theological Determinism.

  10. “. . . and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will . . .”

    Just another of the countless passages of scripture that negates Calvinism.

    First of all, there is no ‘coming to their senses’ under Calvinism. Man is supposedly cursed by God, and nothing but God’s reversal of that curse will enable man to escape . . . no, not the snare of the devil, but the curse of God, which is Total Depravity. Under Calvinism, men do no need to come to their senses (realize how foolish they have been) but need to be brought to life. They are dead, not deceived.

    Nor is man, under Calvinism, ensnared by the devil, who only works as God’s tool, doing God’s will as he is commanded. Man is thus ensnared by the curse of God, which leaves all men helpless and hopeless, unless God zaps them with an unsought regeneration, making them ‘alive’ not come to their senses.

    And what can it possibly mean to have ‘been held captive by him to do his will’? This suggests that the devil has a will that is other than God’s. This also suggests that men are enslaved to, thereby doing this other will of the devil. And yet Calvinism asserts that God’s will, and his will alone, determines whatsoever comes to pass. Yet this passage speaks of men who are in bondage to another power, whose will is opposed to God’s, and that such men are enslaved, doing things other than the will of God.

    Poor Calvinism. It is negated by nearly every verse of scripture. It’s a good thing most people don’t read their bibles.

  11. 2Tim 2, 25-26

    The context of 2Tim 2:24-26 is not clear that it only refers to believers… To recover oneself (sober up) to escape a devilish snare may be something both a believer, and of course non-believer, might need to do in this context.

    The issue is whether “repentance” resulting in the acknowledgment of the truth causes that sobering up irresistibly… or the escape irresistibly… or just provides the opportunity to do either or both.

    The subjunctive mood of the verb “recover themselves” and the reflexive idea in that verb would argue against irresistibility, imo.

    I think also that repentance in this context might mean enlightenment that changes one’s mind, but which is before salvation which requires also a faith decision of the heart.

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