Theological Views on the Spirit’s Call to Repentance

Two contrasting theological views (Calvinism-Reformed and Arminian-Wesleyan) are held as to the ministry of the Holy Spirit’s call to repentance in regeneration.

Reformed Theology teaches that the elect are effectually called unto faith in Christ by His Spirit working in due season.

As God hath appointed the elect unto glory, so hath He, by the eternal and most free purpose of His will, foreordained all the means thereunto (Ephesians 1:4-5; 2:10; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Peter 1:2). Wherefore they who are elected, being fallen in Adam, are redeemed by Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:9, 10; Titus 2:14), are effectually called unto faith in Christ by His Spirit working in due season, are justified, adopted, sanctified (Romans 8:30; Ephesians 1:5; 2 Thessalonians 2:13), and kept by His power through faith unto salvation (1 Peter 1:5). Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only (John 6:64-65; 8:47; 10:26; 17:9; Romans 8:28-39; 1 John 2:19) (The Westminster Confession of Faith III:6).

Thus, it is said that this call is irrevocable, efficient and must be responded to positively by persons predestinated to salvation by God. The total depravity of man renders him incapable of perceiving divine conviction of sin (John Calvin, Institutes of Religion, 3:3).

Arminian Theology sees God’s call quite differently. First, Arminius believed all unregenerate persons have freedom of will and the capability to resist the Holy Spirit. Hence, man is able to refuse to accept the gospel of grace by not opening to Him who knocks at the door of the heart. These things man can do without any difference of the elect and of the reprobate. Secondly, he believed “whomsoever God calls, he calls them seriously, with a will desirous of their repentance and salvation.” Thirdly, “God is not so bound to employ all the modes which are possible to Him for the salvation of all men.” Fourthly, he believed sufficiency was not to be distinguished from efficacy and efficiency. Those who are obedient to the call of God do so freely because they are previously excited, impelled, drawn and assisted by grace. Yet, at the very moment, they actually assent; they possess the capability of not assenting (James Arminius, Certain Articles to be Diligently Examined and Weighed XVII, 5, 6, 7, 15, 16).

Thus, the basic difference between Calvinists and Arminians is whether man is passive or active in God’s work of salvation ministered by the Holy Spirit. Lutheran and Catholic traditions make water baptism the instrument through which regeneration occurs.

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