I Am of Paul, I Am of Apollos and I am of Cephas
1Corinthians Ch 1 v 12 “Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ”.
1 Corinthians Ch 3 v 4 “For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal”?
Why are Christians so eager to take to themselves a name. “I am a Wesleyan”, “ I am a Roman Catholic”, “I am a Protestant”.
Down through the ages Christians have either claimed the name of the one they followed or have been given the name of the one they agreed with. Hussites, Waldensians, Coonyites, Irvinites, Arminian, Calvinist.
Even if they did not take on the name, they took on the name of the Denomination or sect that followed certain teachers or preachers,
Baptist, Methodist, Congregationalist, Lutheran, Anglican, Pentecostal or Charismatic, etc.
I remember first reading a book by Lorraine Boetner ( The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination ). I was captured by the way this writer opened up the scriptures and I began to study this interpretation of Scripture.
After a few months, I had claimed the name of Calvinism as my belief system. I was now Reformed.
When I talked to people about my faith in Jesus Christ, I referred to myself as a Calvinist or a Reformed believer, as opposed to an Arminian.
Of course these are two opposing views on the subject of Predestination and the Foreknowledge of God.
Some of my friends accepted some of Calvin’s teaching on this subject and others did not.
Of the five points of Calvinism, (Total Inability, Unmerited Favour, Limited Attonement, Irresistable Grace and Perseverence of the saints), some accepted two but rejected three in favour of Arminius. So these friends were called Molinists, after the scholar Luis de Molina.
Over the years, I began to realise how unnecessary this adoption of names was.
I began to see this in all aspects of my Christian life. I was not Post Tribulation, Pre Tribulation or Mid Tribulation, I was Intra Seal or Pre Wrath.
I was not “A” Millennial, Post Millennial, I was Pre Millennial.
I was not a Continuationist, I was a Cessationist.
I was putting myself into a particular group, again.
Could I really claim the name of Calvin as my belief system?
I began to study the history of the church from the early church fathers, through the reformation to the Brethren, The Holiness movement, the Pentecostals and into the Charismatic renewal.
Besides helping to clarify a lot of my understanding of scripture, I also realised, what a mess we Christians are in and how divided the body of Christ really is and why there are so many splits in church fellowships.
I decided to take a closer look at the man John Calvin, the name that I claimed to express my belief system.
I was amazed at some of the things that I discovered.
Heresy ( Meaning ) ˈhɛrɪsi/noun
Belief or opinion contrary to orthodox religious (especially Christian)
Synonyms: dissension, dissent, dissidence, blasphemy, nonconformity,
unorthodoxy, heterodoxy, apostasy, freethinking, schism, faction;
More: opinion profoundly at odds with what is generally accepted.
"the heresy of being uncommitted to the right political dogma"
A basic definition of heresy, according to Merriam-Webster’s
Collegiate Dictionary, is “adherence to a religious opinion contrary to church dogma.” A second definition is “dissent or deviation from a dominant theory, opinion, or practice.” That’s a good starting point for us. These definitions identify two key elements: a dominant position and a contrary position. With regards to religion, any belief or practice that goes against the official position of the church is considered heretical.
Heresy [Noun] from a Greek word signifying (1) a choice, (2) the opinion chosen, and (3) the sect holding the opinion. In the Acts of the Apostles ( 5:17 ; 15:5 ; Isaiah 24:5 Isaiah 24:14 ; 26:5 ) it denotes a sect, without reference to its character. Elsewhere, however, in the New Testament it has a different meaning attached to it. Paul ranks "heresies" with crimes and seditions ( Galatians 5:20 ). This word also denotes divisions or schisms in the church ( 1 Corinthians 11:19 ). In Titus 3:10 a "heretical person" is one who follows his own self-willed "questions," and who is to be avoided. Heresies thus came to signify self-chosen doctrines not emanating from God ( 2 Peter 2:1 ).
Just as Martin Luther (1483-1546) taught heresy, teaching the necessity of the sacraments (including water baptism) for salvation, John Calvin (1509-1564) also taught the heresy of infant baptism, and also that the heresy that Sacraments were EQUAL with the Word of God. Calvin and Luther BOTH taught baptismal regeneration, i.e., sacramental salvation.
Calvin even had people killed for disagreeing with his heresy on infant baptism.
They ADDED works to faith, which is no faith at all.
Consider Calvin: “But as baptism is a solemn recognition by which God introduces his children into the possession of life [e.g., regeneration], a true and effectual sealing of the promise, a pledge of sacred union with Christ, it is justly said to be the entrance and reception into the church. And as the instruments of the Holy Spirit are not dead, God truly performs and effects by baptism what he figures.”
Elsewhere, Calvin wrote, “There is a union complementary with the thing figured, lest the sign be empty, because that which the Lord represents in sign he effects at the same time, and executes in us by the power of the Spirit . . . What indeed do we abrogate or take away from God when we teach that he acts through his instruments, indeed, he alone . . . God works . . . through the sacraments as instruments… The Spirit is the author, the sacrament is truly the instrument used.”
From 1541 to 1546, John Calvin caused 58 people to be executed and seventy six were exiled. His victims ranged in age from 16 to 80. The most common capital offense was the opposition to infant baptism.
Today, baptism only for accountable believer’s, is a Baptist distinctive. In Calvin's time it was punished either by drowning, a drawn out and slow burning at the stake, or beheading. All this was done in public, with city residents compelled to watch the butchery. The executions were spaced out so as to exert a continuing policy of fear and terror. Others were killed for advocating local church autonomy; opposing the tie-in of church and state: and preaching that Christ died for all sinners.
Re baptism, re baptisers were called Anabaptists. That’s what ana means, again, re baptisers. And if you were a re baptizer of somebody who was baptized as an infant, that was a capital offense…that’s right, a capital offense. It was an act against the state, against the state church and you could pay with your life.
It was considered a heresy worthy of death. Anybody who violated baptism as ordained in their country, whether a Catholic or a Protestant country, came under the punishment of this civil code.
John Calvin taught great truths of the Bible, His teachings on Predestination, The Sovereignty and Foreknowledge of God, Christ’s atonement for His church, The Irresistible Grace of God and the Perseverance of the saints of God, are certainly teachings that are found in scripture, however he also contravened scriptural precepts.
Beside any discussion of doctrines, how do we see the actions of John Calvin. Does his action’s show love and compassion, taught by Jesus?
The question is relevant because he condoned and excused, when not initiating it himself, the persecution and murder of those who opposed his doctrines and position.
Do these actions reflect the good fruits of a man of God?.
We need not need to prove the falsehood of some of Calvin’s doctrines to identify him as preeminent among some of those many teachers professing Christ, though acting in an unchristian manner. What the Lord gave us in scripture is a simple directive that is sufficient for judging any man by his fruits.
How do we see one, such as Calvin, who kills others because they differ with his beliefs?
That is precisely what Saul of Tarsus was before he was turned by God:
(Acts 9:1-2 ). “Then Saul, still breathing murderous threats against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and requested from him letters of authority to the synagogues of Damascus, that if he should find any who were of the Way, both men or women, he might bring them, having been bound, to Jerusalem”
And Jesus said to him: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” (Acts 9:4 )
After his conversion to Christ, did Saul then persecute and slay real heretics, unlike the true brethren of Christ and children of God whom he had previously persecuted in his ignorance and religious zeal? NO he did not! He was now found to be the persecuted one, by those that were his former comrades in unbelief; they stoned him, whipped him, beat him with rods, and then killed him. Why did they do this?
Because of the gospel Paul preached. They could not bear to hear the Truth. They said: “Get rid of this man! He doesn’t deserve to live” (Acts 22:22 ).
The sentencing to death of Michael Servetus.
John Calvin said the same thing of Michael Servetus, a man that dared to disagree with his doctrinal ideas.
Seven years before Calvin actually saw to it that Servetus was put to death, he said: “If he [Servetus] comes [to Geneva], I shall never let him go out alive if my authority has weight.”
Calvin made good on his threat. Why?. Was it because he had no answers to Michael Servetus’ correction of his false doctrine of Infant baptism, and he could not bear to be proven wrong and to lose face?.
The temporal power he had taken to himself was predicated on being right. He was a very proud man; God resists the proud.
What Should True Believers Do with Heretics?
While the apostle Paul did not kill or threaten anyone, he was not afraid or moved by what men could do to him. He protected the sheep of Christ by naming the false teachers and their influences, shining the light on them and their errors, but never by seeking their physical harm or deaths:
(2 Timothy 2:17-18 ). “That sort of talk is like a sore that won’t heal. And Hymenaeus and Philetus have been talking this way by teaching that the dead have already been raised to life. This is far from the truth, and it is destroying the faith of some people”
“Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm. May the Lord repay him according to his works; whom you also should guard against, for he has greatly resisted our words” (2 Timothy 4:14-15 ).
We guard against heresies and evil attitudes by identifying and avoiding them, not by killing those who manifest such. The necessary putting away is to not honor, associate with, or follow the wicked in their ways.
Did Paul call on men to repay the evildoers? No, he identified them and their evil for the sake of those who would listen, recognizing and proceeding according to the Lord’s injunction:
Jesus said: “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves.
Therefore, be wise as serpents and harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16 ).
Paul left it to God to judge those opposed to the gospel, and was willing to pay the price for his stance with his own blood, which he did. The saints shed their blood for, and not the blood of, sinners.
How Should True Believers React to Unbelievers?
What else are we to learn from Paul and his conversion from a violent persecutor of Christ’s brethren to a man who took much abuse for the privilege of being identified with Jesus Christ? Paul himself gives us the answer that he received of the Lord:
1 Timothy 1:16 ). “However, because of this I was shown mercy, so that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all longsuffering, as a pattern for those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life”
John Calvin does not fit this pattern - quite the opposite. He did not suffer those that disagreed with him even to live. He played the part of persecutor. He set an evil example, against the admonition of the apostle John:“We are not to resemble Cain, who was a child of the Evil One and killed his own brother. And why did he kill him? Because his own actions were wicked and his brother’s actions righteous” (1 John 3:12 ).Can John Calvin be defended on his actions?
Amazingly enough, many try to do so in the name of Christ.If one puts their hand in the hand of a murderer, do they not receive the same stain. They were not heretics that Calvin persecuted, but the very brethren of Christ.The Anabapatists, The Waldensians, The Moravian Brethren, The Hussites, The Lollards.
(John 16:2 ). “Certainly, the time is coming when people who murder you will think that they are serving God” “Everyone hating his brother is a murderer. And you know that no murderer has everlasting life abiding in him”(1 John 3:15 ).
Do Calvin’s Doctrines Justify Him?
Michael Servetus, was condemned to death because he spoke against the Trinity and infant baptism?
Do the charges have any merit?
Was it right to persecute him to death for what he believed? Even though Servetus forcefully spoke against both of these teachings;
Was this a crime. What was Servetus’s crime speaking against Infant Baptism?Infant Baptism:
Water baptism was clearly given only to those who repented of their sins as a result of hearing the preaching of the gospel. Never were infants baptized in scriptural accounts, nor did the apostles ever teach such.
Paul at one point says:“I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, lest anyone should say that I had baptized in my own name. Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas. Besides, I do not know whether I baptized any other. For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ should be deprived of its power. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:14-18 ).
What did Servetus say about infant baptism that so offended Calvin and his posse of persecutors, that they wanted to kill him?
He proclaimed it to be “a doctrine of the Devil, an invention of popery, and a total subversion of Christianity.” He wrote such comments in the margins of Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion.
It was after seeing these things that Calvin pledged Servetus would not leave Geneva alive should he appear there.
Many of us that today, believe in total immersion of those that confess Jesus Christ as Saviour, would have no doubt been in the same position as Servetus. Persecuted for our belief. Servetus was correct, and so it is today.
The heresy of Infant Baptism taught in the Roman Catholic church, the Anglican and Protestant churches, including the C of E, the Methodists and Reformed churches are guilty of leading people into believing that the sacrament of baptising of infants is the means of salvation.
What about Servetus denial of the Trinity. Did this give John Calvin the right to execute him? Would the Christian church believe that it would be correct and just to persecute or execute Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Unitarians, because they deny the Trinity. God Forbid.
How do we view this man that brought to our attention the great truths of the Grace of a Sovereign God, who preached a great salvation by grace through faith and yet held to Roman Catholic teachings such as, Infant Baptism and maintained the teaching of clergy, state religion, that rigorously imposed religious laws on its followers, at the peril of punishment, the persecution and execution of those considered heretics?
You may ask, is this just a character assassination of John Calvin?.
My answer would be of course not. I agree with Calvin on many points, i.e. his five points known by the acronym “Tulip” but I also disagree with many of his other teachings. I disagree with his views on Infant Baptism, His Ecclesiology , I would not agree with his rigorous church discipline and his idea that there is no salvation outside of his church. I disagree with his views on Eschatology, his beliefs on the true presence in the Eucharist.
Am I a Calvinist? Of course I am not. I am a follower of Jesus Christ.
This does not mean that I will not listen to bible teachers or preachers, or join in with discussions, or read commentaries. However, my future intention is not to label myself or allow myself to be labeled by others on the account of my beliefs.
This lesson hopefully has shown me that I need to stop looking to any man as my teacher, to be open minded but to be like the Bereans of the bible. Acts 17,:11."These (Bereans) were more noble than those in Thessalonica in that they received the word with all readiness of mind and searched the scriptures daily whether those things were so."
I should concentrate my minds on the Bible alone and allow the Holy Spirit to be my Teacher. After all, John 16:13 (KJV)13 Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will shew you things to come.
Cover Pictures John Calvin, Martin Luther, Jacobus Arminius, John Wesley.