Does Paul Support Calvinism’s View of Irresistible Grace in 1 Corinthians 4:7?

The following is a comment I made in response to a Calvinist appealing to 1 Cor. 4:7 to show that unless faith is an irresistible gift from God, it would give us reason to boast.  Links to the original debate are provided below.

Real quick. This post is in response to what I would call some irresponsible proof-texting of a passage, on the part of Dominic, in order to get the passage to say more than it actually does. It seems to me that you are doing the exact same thing with 1 Cor. 4:7,

“For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you did not?”

First, in the context of the passage, Paul is addressing those at Corinth who thought they were more spiritual than others, when, in fact, they were not (as discussed in 1 Cor. 2). They were, in fact, proving to be unspiritual and unable to move onto maturity due to their quarreling and favoritism (1:10-12, cf. 3:1-5). Some thought they were better than others due to the fact that they believed they had gained deeper revelation from a certain apostle that others had not received. In that context, Paul is probably speaking of receiving revelation from certain apostles and not “faith” from God.

Much more could be said concerning context, but it is clear from that alone that this passage does not give you what you want from it. It might be better to focus on what it does not say. Nowhere does Paul speak of the gift of faith in this passage, or the gift of salvation. Nowhere does Paul correlate the inability to boast with the reception of an irresistible gift. Rather, Paul actually points out that they are boasting, though they have no grounds for boasting. This is important because faith (though not specifically addressed in this passage) excludes boasting, not because it is impossible to boast, but because one cannot legitimately boast in faith, since faith is simple trust and the receiving of a free and unearned gift (Rom. 4). So too, these Corinthians had no legitimate grounds for boasting, though they were indeed boasting.

So it is not an issue of “can you boast” but “can you legitimately boast” or “do you have proper grounds for boasting?” Paul’s answer in both cases is “no”. And why is that? Because it is senseless to boast in something that we receive freely from another as an unearned and undeserved gift. On that basis alone, boasting is excluded. If you didn’t earn it, or deserve it, then you have no legitimate grounds for boasting (and faith doesn’t earn or merit anything). Paul never goes beyond this simple point, and neither should we. Yet, Calvinists insist on things that go far beyond what Paul says here and in Rom. 4 concerning faith, boasting and works (and in the process turn faith into a work, contrary to Paul’s simple definitions). The fact that faith is simple trust in another (Christ) to do what we cannot do for ourselves (save us), and is for that reason the receiving of a free and unearned gift, excludes boasting. Period. No more is needed to explain the nature of faith and its antithesis (works).

So Paul is simply stating in 1 Cor. 4 that the Corinthians have no grounds for boasting over each other, since whatever they have has been received and not earned. And if it has simply been received then all legitimate grounds for boasting are cut off (cf. Rom. 4). Period. But you are reading your Calvinistic presuppositions into Paul’s words, rather than allowing Paul to speak for himself on the matter. You are, in a sense, going “beyond what is written” (1 Cor. 4:6), in order to support your doctrines of irresistible grace and unconditional election. Thankfully, there is nothing in Paul’s words, or definitions of faith and works, to support such doctrines

Addressing Dominic’s Response to the Purpose of Regeneration in Calvinism

Responding to Dominic’s Second Rebuttal on Regeneration Preceding Faith 

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6 Responses

  1. Just fixed a typo with the Scripture reference. It is 1 Cor. 4:7, and not 1:4.

  2. Let’s look at the reasoning the Calvinists use for “boasting”. They claim if man has a free response to God (even by grace – if man has the freedom of contrary choice) in Salvation, then man may have reason to boast. If their claim is true, then using this Calvinist reasoning, they may boast in their Sanctification, after all, man has a choice (ability to resist) to cooperate in their Sanctification. So either grace has to be always irresistable (for this reasoning to be logical and consistent), or in sanctification, man has reason to boast.

  3. Great post! Faith are the hands that reach out to receive the gift, which is salvation. Thanks for bringing up the context in which Paul is talking, the Church at Corinth. That’s critical to properly exegeting the passage.

    Russ

  4. When I was a child, my dad told me to dig ten post holes, he told my mother that I would just be able to dig one today. The holes had to go through solid rock, I remember the blisters like it was yesterday. when the sun began to set, and my body could handle no more, I had dug one post hole. If my dad knew this about me, don’t you think God would know if I would get saved. God is an all knowing God. I can’t help it if God knows all. Most all religions say do, do, do, Jesus said it is finished (done).

  5. Jess,

    Not sure what your point is. Arminians agree that God foreknows who will get saved. Arminians also affirm that Christ said it was finished at the cross. The question is, what was finished? What was finished was His provision of atonement.

    If you comment further, please make sure your comments have specific relevance to the post.

    God Bless,
    Ben

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