My Response to John Piper’s Defense of Two Calls: Considering 1 Corinthians 1

John Piper says of the two calls,

Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 1:23–24, “We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” Notice the two kinds of “calls” implied in this text.

First, the preaching of Paul goes out to all, both Jews and Greeks. This is a general call of the gospel. It offers salvation impartially and indiscriminately to all. Whoever will believe on the crucified Christ will have him as Savior and Lord. But often, this general call to everyone falls on unreceptive ears and is called foolishness.

But notice, secondly, that Paul refers to another kind of call. He says that among those who hear, both Jews and Greeks, there are some who, in addition to hearing the general call, are “called” in another way. “But to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (v. 24). In other words they are called in such a way that they no longer regard the cross as foolishness but as the wisdom and power of God.

Something happened in their hearts that changed the way they saw Christ. Let’s call this not the general call but the effectual call of God. This is like the call of Lazarus out of the grave. Jesus called with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out” (John 11:43). And the dead man came out. This kind of call creates what it calls for. If it says, “Live!” it creates life. If it says, “Repent!” it creates repentance. If it says “Believe!” it creates faith. If it says “Follow me!” it creates obedience. Paul says that everyone who is called in this sense no longer regards the cross as foolishness, but regards the cross as the power of God. They are not coming to Christ under coercion. They are acting freely from what they truly value as infinitely precious. That is what has happened to them. Their resistance to the cross has been overcome because the call of God broke through their spiritual blindness and granted them to see it as wisdom and power. This is what we mean by irresistible grace.[1]

Think about Piper’s comments. He says, “This is a general call of the gospel. It offers salvation impartially and indiscriminately to all.” This is misleading because, in Calvinism, the general external call does not actually offer a receivable gospel because, without the internal efficacious call, no one can be saved. David Allen asks, “How can God be said to love someone in the gospel offer when He has not provided a means for their salvation via an atonement?”[2]

Piper’s five-point Calvinism leaves him promoting a general call that no one can accept without the internal efficacious call, and even if they did, it is an empty gospel for the nonelect because it contains no atonement for their sins. Thus, in actuality, the general call of Calvinism that can only be rejected without the internal selective call for the elect is in and of itself a vacuous, misleading declaration of an impotent gospel. What a degradation of the glorious gospel of Scripture that is the power of God (Rom 1:16) that transforms a lost hell-bound sinner while still in the darkness of sin (John 6:27, 29; 16:35–36; Acts 27:17–18; Col 1:13) into a child of God with simple trust in God’s revelation about Christ (John 20:30–31).

Therefore, the external call is, in point of fact, the ineffectual call, and the internal call that only God’s elect receive is the effectual call. Piper continues, “Whoever will believe on the crucified Christ will have him as Savior and Lord. But often this general call to everyone falls on unreceptive ears and is called foolishness.” Piper knows no one can receive the external call without the internal, and he knows the nonelect not only will not believe, but they cannot believe, and even if they could, there is nothing in the gospel to save the nonelect since, in limited atonement, their sins were not atoned for. Therefore, to say the general call “often . . . falls on unreceptive ears” is simply another Calvinist attempt to soft-pedal the callous unbiblical beliefs and entailments of Calvinism because, without the accompanying internal call, it always falls on unreceptive ears.

Lastly, Piper says, “This kind of call creates what it calls for. If it says, “Live!” it creates life. If it says, “Repent!” it creates repentance. If it says “Believe!” it creates faith. If it says “Follow me!” it creates obedience . . . They are not coming to Christ under coercion. They are acting freely from what they truly value as infinitely precious. That is what has happened to them. Their resistance to the cross has been overcome because the call of God broke through their spiritual blindness and granted them to see it as wisdom and power. This is what we mean by irresistible grace” (emphasis added).

Although Piper uses quite ornate language, the act of God monergistically creating everything needed in the lost, rebellious, spiritually passive elect one by being “overcome because the call of God broke through” is compulsion. For God to accomplish all of this in the lost elect, without the consent of the person overcome so as not to allow him to actively participate in the process until after regeneration fails to address the question of how this is not “coercion” since the individual was forced into this new creation.[3]

As a result, although they acknowledge the gospel proclamation as the vehicle through which God calls his elect, it is impotent to save a person, elect or nonelect, because the saving power does not exist apart from the internally limited effectual call (irresistible grace) for the unconditionally elect. That is to say, if the elect hears the gospel without the internal call, they will not respond because they cannot respond in saving faith.

Consequently, the gospel, according to Calvinism, is not really good news. The good news comes through discovering you are one of the unconditionally elect, which becomes a knowable reality in a person’s life when he is selectively and efficaciously drawn (called); that, rather than the gospel itself, is the truly good news. The preaching of the gospel has only the power of a delivery boy in contrast to the Scripture that says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Rom 1:16).

As an Extensivist (God’s salvific love extends to all),[4] I contend that God’s grace is both effectual and resistible for all. It is effective in accomplishing what he designed it to do, which is to sufficiently provide so any person can believe or reject grace (John 6:45). God’s singular call of the gospel is the sufficient call. It is sufficient to save all, in contrast to Calvinism’s internal effectual call for the elect only and the external ineffectual non-saving call for the nonelect. According to Scripture, if a person receives God’s sufficient grace call (draw) to salvation, which anyone can do, he is then referred to as the called (1 Cor 1:21; Titus 2:11).

Accordingly, the gospel means good news, but in Calvinism, the general, external call is not actually good news because it can only be rejected; specifically, no one can believe the general proclamation of the gospel unto salvation without receiving the internal effectual call, which is limited to the elect. To the ones who hear the general call of the gospel, Calvinists may say if you believe, you will be saved. But they know that according to Calvinism, no one gets saved by only hearing the general proclamation of the gospel because salvation by faith alone in that proclamation is impossible without the internal efficacious call given to the elect.

The genuine opportunity to be saved comes only when a person receives the internal efficacious call, which is only extended to God’s elect; it always results in salvation. Resultantly, if someone does believe the gospel with saving faith, it proves they received the internal efficacious call from God (drawing) because they are one of the unconditionally elected ones.

But understand the logical entailment that, in unvarnished Calvinism, the gospel proclamation is merely the delivery system through which God efficaciously calls out his limited elect, but, in and of itself, the gospel is as impotent to save a person whether they are nonelect or elect (before the elect receive the internal call) as saying ten Hail Mary’s in seven languages. This reality exists when full candor prevails because the saving power does not exist apart from the internally selective, efficacious, and irresistible call for the unconditionally elect. Therefore, when the gospel is preached and heard but does not contain God’s internal call to his elect, no matter how good it sounds, it is an absolutely ineffectual gospel, which defies its own meaning of being good news. The internal irresistible call is what Calvinists say the word draw in John 6:44 means; therefore, it is essential to be saved, but it is also limited to the elect and is efficacious in saving everyone who receives it.

While Calvinists are quick to say all are commanded to believe, they are unyielding in thinking that only the elect can believe (even though consistent voluntary clarity on this point is sometimes cloaked in word puzzles so that only the theologically sophisticated detect it) and not only can the elect believe, they will believe when God draws them. In the final analysis, they cannot reject Christ. With equal determination and certainty, Calvinists believe God does not draw (offer a receivable gospel unto salvation to anyone but the elect) the nonelect; regardless of how many Calvinists obscure the truth about this belief and its entailments, God does not in any sense desire them to be saved, salvifically love them, or he would have elected them and efficaciously drawn them to salvation instead of leaving them in a state in which salvation is an impossibility. This is an indisputable entailment of Calvinism.

Additionally, that the nonelect deserve hell is not why they spend eternity there; all people deserve hell, the elect and the nonelect. Thus, that is not the ultimate reason people are in hell, according to consistent Calvinism. God alone decides people’s eternal destination. Every other factor is incapable of substantively contributing to or contradicting God’s predetermined selection of those who go to heaven and those who go to hell.

By electing only some, he predetermines everyone’s eternal destiny, whether he does that actively, passively, or consequently. But that he did is indisputable, and the order of decrees does not affect this ultimate reality one whit, regardless of how voluminous the writings and flowery the language Calvinists put forth to soften or even obscure this reality. Some Calvinists are very forthright about this reality, and I greatly appreciate their candor even though I reject their beliefs. Their unbiblical beliefs and maybe our own overfocus on the verses they like to emphasize (John 6:37, 44, 65) cause many to miss the significance of John 6:27 in setting the parameters of God’s salvific love for all, reiterated in verses 33 and 45. The same can be said about 1 Corinthians 1:23–24.

I believe Piper and Calvinists, in general, impose unconditional election onto 1 Corinthians 1:23–24 as they do in John 6:44. I believe the key to understanding this passage is the same for 1 Corinthians chapters 1–3. It is the same key for understanding who the called are as well as differentiating what works will be rewarded as gold, silver, precious stones, and those that will be burned up as wood, hay, and straw.

The key to rightly interpreting these two areas is realizing the Greek word translated as wise or wisdom, appears twenty-six times in 1 Corinthians chapters 1–3. Paul uses the term nineteen times in all the rest of his epistles. Resultantly, Paul uses this term more in these three chapters than he does in all the chapters of his other epistles.[5]

In addition, the word know or knowledge appears in the NASB 10 times in these same three chapters;[6] thus, we find wisdom or knowledge 36 times in three chapters or an average of twelve times a chapter. Throughout these chapters, Paul continually contrasts God’s wisdom and knowledge with man’s wisdom and knowledge (1 Cor 1:18, 21, 23–25, 27; 2:5, 6–8, 12, 13–14), and this juxtaposition culminates in 1 Cor 3:18–20. Chapter 3 emphasizes building the local church and being eternally rewarded for your labor. Whether a person employs man’s wisdom or God’s wisdom in building the church determines whether one’s works are rewarded; only works that are according to God’s wisdom are rewarded. In the same way, whether one seeks to come to God according to man’s wisdom (the broad way Matt 7:13b) or God’s wisdom (the narrow way Matt 7:13a, 14) determines whether a person will be saved.

That is why Paul said, “For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (1 Cor 2:2), which is God’s wisdom. Paul did not come in dependence upon “cleverness of speech” (1 Cor 1:17). Cleverness is the word σοφός, wisdom. Paul did not preach and depend on man’s wisdom to tailor and empower his message. He knew man’s wise rhetorical abilities do not save anyone; he knew crafting his message according to man’s wisdom would make it more acceptable, but it would be a false gospel that lacked the power of God because God’s power is only in the gospel according to his wisdom.

Salvific wisdom is not attained through human experience, wisdom, intellect, or striving but by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 2:10). We come to know God and believe the gospel by believing the revelation of God (Matt 16:13–17; John 1:10–13; 6:44–45). Trusting God’s revelation means that by grace, we can and must subjugate any human wisdom, knowledge, abilities, heritage, and experience that impedes us from believing the gospel, God’s revelation (Gen 15:1–6). Therefore, the gospel call is sufficient to bring a person to salvation, but it is not irresistible.

Those who accept God’s sufficient calling of the gospel are the ones referred to as “those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor 1:24) because they responded in faith to God’s initiation and message; that is when a person realized the gospel is the power of God, a realization that grows throughout the Christian life. A message that presents “Christ [as] the power of God and the wisdom of God” is not demonstrative of man’s wisdom. Conversely, those who seek to come to God on the broad road (Matt 7:13–14) based on man’s initiative, wisdom, experience, knowledge, and understanding reject God’s call; therefore, they cannot be considered “the called” any more than they can be considered the saved, the brethren, or adopted. All are called, but the called who by grace see and follow God’s wisdom, which is contrary to everything in man’s wisdom, are “those who are the called,” i.e., saved, forgiven, and eternally blessed. The called are the same as “saints by calling” (vs. 2), those God “called into fellowship with His Son” (vs. 9), the ones “being saved” (vs. 18), and who “believe” (vs. 21).

Salvation by God’s wisdom is the same for everyone. It is by God’s calling, the call of the gospel (God’s revelation), and, therefore, it unifies the church, which is precisely what the Corinthians were undermining with their dependence on man’s wisdom in serving (vs. 10–16). From being saved in the same way by the same saving faith in the same gospel, they moved to extolling human groups in serving Christ, which disunites those saved by the same gospel. Paul knew they were all God’s children, not because of him, Apollos, or Cephas. We are not quite sure how Christ’s name fits in, but it may have been in this divisive party spirit some were wrongfully pulling Christ’s name into the divisiveness or were rightfully claiming loyalty and dependence on Christ alone. Whatever the precise details, dividing those for whom Christ died and saved in the same way by the same faith in the same gospel to create a division where one should not exist was to Corinthianize Christianity (vs. 12).

Paul knew, according to God’s wisdom, all are of Christ. Yet, they were thinking according to human wisdom, which causes division. Paul answered this with the wisdom of God, saying, “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void. For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God” (1 Cor 1:17–18).

This means that Paul unambiguously repudiated man’s wisdom and chose to trust God’s wisdom of the cross for his own salvation and in seeking the salvation of those to whom he preached because no one comes to God according to man’s wisdom, drawing, calling, plan (Matt 7:13–14). Accordingly, Paul said, “For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe” (1 Cor 1:21). In chapters 1–3, Paul is seeking to persuade the Corinthians to serve God according to the wisdom by which they were saved instead of what they were doing, which was getting saved by God’s wisdom and then seeking to serve God according to man’s wisdom that divides.

Paul is calling them to the unity they have in the gospel, salvation, and, therefore, in Christ. That is to remind them they were all saved the same way, by receiving God’s same call of the same gospel. It is God’s gospel according to his wisdom, which is a stumbling block to some, and foolishness to others because the gospel does not operate according to the wisdom of man, which actually is intentional.

Romans 9 contains several examples of God building and basing his salvation plan on his wisdom that is contrary to man’s. God’s salvation plan is based on believing the promise as Abraham, their father, did (Gen 15:1–6). The Jews must do that rather than depend on being Abraham’s physical descendent (Rom 9:7–9). God chose the older to serve the younger contrary to standard practice (Rom 9:10–13); he chose Jacob over Esau “though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls” (Rom 9:11). Resultantly, his salvation plan, and an individual’s salvation experience is always initiated by God; the same with the call of the gospel and drawing of the Father.

This is seen in the wedding feast of the King (Matt 22:1–14), in which everyone was invited, but only those who came according to the King’s invitation and clothing requirement were allowed to stay (vs. 12–13). This portrays that true salvation must be according to the initiation, provision, and call of God, and only those who respond to the wisdom of the King of Kings can be said to be saved–the called. These are also the only ones who can be called believers, children of God, saved, or righteous. Paul refers to Roman believers as “the called of Jesus Christ” (Rom 1:6), “beloved . . . saints” (Rom 1:7), and those whose “faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world” (Rom 1:8).

Remember, the two calls proposed by Calvinism are not highlighted in Scripture but inferred from Calvinism’s need to take God’s one sufficient call and strip it of the power he endowed it with to make room for their selective, efficacious call of the elect. This is not found in the passage and degrades faith to a mere consequence of regeneration rather than the vital link between the lost person and the gospel unto salvation, as seen in Scripture. Calvinists’ effort to prop up their fragile system reduces the gospel proper to an empty call masquerading as the true gospel that is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Rom 1:16). I believe Paul could not say “For I am not ashamed of” the impotent gospel of Calvinism.

God’s sufficient call of the gospel is to and for every one (1 Cor 1:18–21), as is the promise of the Father, “and they shall all be taught of God” (John 6:44–45). That call illumines our eyes and hearts to God’s wisdom, which is a call to trust God’s wisdom conveyed in his revelation and reject man’s wisdom that stands in the way of trusting God’s wisdom–such as looking for a sign, making human sense of everything before believing, requiring to see Christ in person, or having all human questions answered first (1 Cor 1:22–23). Once illumined, we can accept God’s revelation “through the Spirit” (1 Cor 2:10) by simple faith in trusting the Father’s revelation about Christ, which is to believe the gospel in which “God was well pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe” (1 Cor 1:21).

Resultantly, whether one can be referred to as “the called” depends on whether one heard the gospel and “learned from the Father” (John 6:45), which is God’s wisdom, resulting in one coming to God and being one of “the called.” If they listened and heard it in light of man’s wisdom, the same gospel becomes a stumbling block and foolishness. Only those who listened according to God’s wisdom can be considered “the called” as a group. While all are called to believe, only those who respond to the call of the gospel can be the called, the saved, or a believer.

Paul begins this letter in verse two, “To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours” (emphasis added). Notice that the “saints by calling” are the same as those who “call on the name of our Lord Jesus.” As in John chapter 6, the terms believe, learned, come, eat, and drink are terms used interchangeably in reference to those who receive the Father’s drawing, which drawing is accepted by receiving the Father’s revelation; they receive the Father’s drawing and revelation and come to the Father (John 6:45). 1 Corinthians 1:9 refers to them as the ones who were “called into fellowship with His Son.” They rejected man’s wisdom, which sees the cross as a stumbling block and foolishness (vs. 21), and learned from the Father’s drawing and calling through the Scripture (1 Cor 2:10; John 6:45).

In Acts 26:16–18, God sent Paul to the Gentiles saying, “To open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.” It is the gospel that opens their eyes, not Paul, his wisdom or cleverness, or regeneration, and it does so sufficiently enough that they “may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God.” That is the transforming power of the gospel (Rom 1:16). Those that “turn” may be assured that coming God’s way (the narrow way, Matt 7:14) will result in being accepted, evident in that they “may receive forgiveness of sins.”

Similar to Jesus and the Father’s teaching in John 6, the only work required is to believe in Jesus (John 6:29), which secures them forever, as seen in the Acts 26 quote, “and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.” By simply preaching the gospel eyes are opened so that they can believe the gospel unto salvation. They are moved from the dominion of Satan to God, and they receive the forgiveness of sins and an eternal inheritance with all the saints, with all the others who have been “sanctified by faith” in Christ. They are not sanctified (set apart) by unconditional election and a selective internal irresistible call, but as Jesus says, “by faith in Me,” which happens not as a consequence of regeneration or a limited secret call but by faith in Jesus; an act that is synonymous with believing the gospel.

1 Cor1:18, “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” Like Jesus’s call to believe in him and the Father’s draw (John 6:29, 44), it is foolishness to those who seek to come according to their plan, experience, and human knowledge (John 6:41–42), but to those who believe and are “being saved it is the power of God.” Until one experiences salvation by faith, he does not see the power of God in the gospel. By grace, this power becomes evident when a person trusts God’s revelation, and he thereby subordinates his knowledge, experience, and abilities to faith. He later realizes that what in human wisdom he thought was foolishness, in faith, he finds to be the wisdom of God and the power of God Almighty to overcome everything that separates man from God.

Verse 21 reiterates the power of the gospel, juxtaposing God’s wisdom with man’s wisdom, which is repeated several times in the first three chapters of 1 Corinthians. God says, “For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe” (1 Cor 1:21). Wisdom of the world is seeking to come to or serve God with human wisdom, which may mix faith and merit, but it deems faith alone to be insufficient for evil man (particularly as seen by the religious) to come to God without works or certain attributes. The broad road does not lead to God, and people on the broad road reject the drawing and calling of the Father, and, therefore, it remains foolishness in their eyes. In fact, God structured salvation so that man could not reason to understand salvation, and not only would man not come to the narrow path if he relied on anything other than trusting God’s revelation, but he could not.

Vs. 22–23: This brings us to God’s wisdom, which Paul accepted by faith, saying, “For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness” (1 Cor 1:22–23). It is foolishness to the Gentiles who seek only to receive the message if it is understandable to the human mind and a stumbling block to Jews according to their partial knowledge of Scripture and Talmudic traditions. Consequently, the Jews always sought another sign as they did in John 6. They saw the signs of Jesus healing the sick (John 6:2) and of the feeding of the five thousand (John 6:14) and still asked Jesus for another sign (John 6:30). Signs do not convince and, thereby, save anyone because that is what only faith can do.

The cross was a stumbling block to the Jews

The reason the cross was a stumbling block to the Jews is in large part because of Deut 21:22–23. Verse 23 says, “For he who is hanged is accursed of God.” But Christ became a curse in bearing God’s judgment for our sins and redeemed us from the Law’s curse. This is what Paul means when he quotes Deut 21:23 in Galatians 3:13, saying, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us–for it is written, “CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE.” But the Jews, in their human wisdom, saw Christ not as bearing the curse for our sin but considered him cursed of God and themselves as more righteous. Others may have seen it as a curse in the sense of being a distraction from keeping the law and, therefore, possibly being eternally cursed.

The cross was foolishness to the Gentiles

Gentiles in verse 23 refer to all non-Jews, which would include the Greeks mentioned in verse 22. The cross stood against the Greeks’ whole philosophy of life. They believed life was about self-fulfillment. They were hedonistic, often of an epicurean style. Epicureanism sought to live a life of pleasure, which required rejecting purely hedonistic, unthoughtful pleasure and replacing it with a state of sustainable pleasure by avoiding excess resulting in pain; they disbelieved in God in their quest to live fear-free. To believe in Christ on the cross, who symbolized the opposite of their philosophy, was inimical to their life goals and worldview and was, therefore, the quintessence of insanity.

The cross was culturally foolish to both Jews and Greeks

The Jews viewed the cross as a theological stumbling block to finding salvation by keeping the law. But I think they would, in a cultural sense, agree with other Roman citizens and also view salvation through a crucified man as repugnant foolishness. The Jews and Gentiles were both citizens of Rome; consequently, they were well aware of the societal norms of the day. Crucifixion seems to have been developed by the Persians, but it is the Romans who perfected it as a means of torturously inhumane punishment.

The cross was an instrument of retribution, which was so thoroughly horrendous that Roman citizens were exempt from that punishment. It was reserved for slaves and societal outcasts. This is because of the nature of crucifixion. It was an experience of immeasurable public shame and intense, prolonged agony, all of which served as a sign that the crucified are the worst of the worst human dregs of society, religiously unredeemable and societally incorrigible. On the cross, their full incorrigibility and the impossibility of becoming a meaningful part of even the lowest class in Rome were evident, or they would not have been crucified.

Crucifixion displayed through the individual’s struggle to breathe and inability to keep the birds from nibbling at their skin and gouging out their eyes along with the insects burrowing into their eyes, ears, and bloody wounds, how worthless and helpless they were; they could not help themselves in the least, much less help anyone else. Evident to all through the natural senses, the crucified desperately needed to be saved but could not save themselves. The idea of a crucified man saving others was inconceivable, let alone save others.

If God were going to deliver people, he would, in the Jewish mind, send a conquering Messiah. The oppressed Gentiles might look for another of the stature of Spartacus, who would be successful, or the Greeks would perhaps seek a towering intellectual leader of the wisest and most powerful caliber.

Resultantly, the idea that salvation, a better life, was provided by a beaten man impaled on a cross was repugnantly unacceptable in the wisdom of humanity. Many did not and do not today fully understand some of Christ’s even deeper meanings that are taught by the crucifixion; this is particularly true of those who see the crucifixion of Christ through human wisdom. For example, Christ showed that the truly righteous might suffer worse than the unrighteous in this life, and the barbaric suffering of one can be God’s will, good, and make many strong, all of which is totally antithetical to human reasoning. It is all foolishness as this man Jesus was foolish when he said things that even in the most doltish wisdom are known to be wrong, like when he said the first shall be last, and the last shall be first.

From his own wisdom and experience, man reasons that leaders, conquerors, kings, and deliverers inflict pain and loss while they themselves gain. By human wisdom alone, they might ask, am I to believe the lowest dreg of society, suffering what only those discarded as non-humans can suffer, is a king or liberator? This was not comprehensible to the Jew or gentile. They would say, do not take us for fools. Add to this that Roman crosses were a symbol of Rome’s right to torture to death anyone who would dare to challenge the authority of Rome. To think of it as a symbol of love, acceptance, power, deliverance, and eternal life was the height of idiocy.

They would remember when Spartacus led a massive slave revolt (73–71 BC) to be finally defeated by Marcus Licinius Crassus (71 BC).[7] After the defeat, “the 6,000 survivors of Spartacus’ army were then crucified along the Appian Way from Rome to Capua and their bodies left there to rot for years as a warning against any future insurrections.”[8]

To think of Christ on a cross as the deliverer defied all the religions that they knew of (the Jews practiced parts of the Old Testament and their traditions). It defied the Greek worldview of life and both Jews’ and Gentiles’ knowledge and experience in the Roman empire, where there was a regular stream of crosses along the main road that served as a constant reminder of the unworthiness and weakness of the crucified, and Rome’s power and superiority to everything and everyone.

With all of this and the reality that every society throughout time has the essentials to view the cross as repugnant (a stumbling block) and foolishly inane as a way to a better life, God chose the foolishness of the preaching of the cross because there Christ dealt with sin and secured deliverance that takes trusting God’s wisdom as the only way to salvation. “For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe” (1:21). The message of the cross is the gospel, that saves those who believe. Anyone can accept the gospel by faith, which act is, in and of itself, a repudiation of one’s own human wisdom and an embrace of God’s wisdom, the death of Christ on the cross for our sins.

Vs. 24: “But to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” The called are those who believed in Christ (1:2) and, therefore, no longer looked at the cross with human wisdom (vs. 18). When they exercised faith in response to God’s calling, what they had viewed as a stumbling block and foolish (vs. 18, 22, 23) was now viewed as the power of God. God chose what is foolish to the natural man, in part so man could not be seen as contributing to his own salvation or coming to God apart from faith alone, which is God’s wise salvation (1 Cor 1:21; Acts 26:17). Therefore, Piper fails to exegetically and in harmony with other scriptures, demonstrate Calvinism’s two call theory.

[1] John Piper, “What We Believe About the Five Points of Calvinism,” March 1, 1985,

[2] David L. Allen, The Atonement (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2019), 176.

[3] See chapter 18, “Does Unconditional Election Include a Forced Change, a Freely Chosen Change, or Both?” in my book, Does God Love All or Some?

[4] Specifically, Extensivism believes man and woman were created in the image of God with otherwise choice, and God’s salvation plan is comprehensive, involving an all-inclusive, unconditional offer of salvation and eternal security of the believer, reception of which is conditioned upon grace-enabled faith rather than an exclusive plan involving a limited actual offer of salvation to only the unconditionally elected, or any plan that, in any way, conditions salvation upon merely a humanly-generated faith.

Extensivism may have some things in common with Calvinism, Arminianism, or Molinism but does not rely upon any of them. Similarities do not equal sameness. Extensivism seeks only to present a comprehensive, consistent system of soteriology that is reflective of the warp and woof of Scripture. It may have shared beliefs with other systems of soteriology, but Extensivism neither relies upon nor seeks to be consistent with them.

Generally, I use Extensivism as a positive for the negative non-Calvinism.

[5] Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003), 63. Fee and Stuart note that one of the keywords is wisdom or wise and that Paul uses it 26 times in chapters 1–3 and only 18 more times in all of Paul’s letters. My search of the word in Nestle’s 27th ed. resulted in 26 and 19, respectively.

[6] In the New American Standard version of the Bible, 1995 edition.

[7] Pompey came in at the end to steal the credit for the victory.

[8] Capua is about 120 miles from Rome. Joshua J. Mark, “The Spartacus Revolt,” March 4, 2016,, last paragraph under Spartacus’s defeat. Accessed 2/2/24.

Ronnie W. Rogers