We are still on the dreaded topic of Predestination. I hope to serve you to be as helpful as I can. The first post gives a quick survey on biblical witness for this doctrine. On the previous post, I tried to dispel the objection that predestination will produce Christians who take salvation for granted. There are other objections or questions that need to be answered, and this post will look at one of them.
Many Christians who come across this doctrine for the first time would ask this naturally, “If God has chosen who will be saved, and if His will is final, then why should Christians even bother evangelising?” OR “If God has chosen whom to save despite our effort, why would we even bother praying for the lost?” “Wouldn’t God save them anyway with or without us?” The fear is that this doctrine will produce lazy Christians who will not care for the lost or who will use this as an excuse to not evangelise.
There are some points that I think Christians should know with regards to this concern.
1. God has commanded us to proclaim the Good News to the lost.
“Duh! This sounds so obvious”, you might say. But please, hear me out first.
We must realise that the God who declares that He is sovereign and has chosen believers before the foundation of the world is the same God who gives us the commandment to preach the gospel (Matthew 10:7, 27; 11:5; 24:14; 26:13; Mark 3:14; 16:15) and make disciples of all nations (Matt 28:18-20). If we use our logic and ask, “If God has chosen, then why do we evangelise?”, I am afraid we might be saying, consciously or not, that we have a more superior logical framework than God’s. There is a danger to think that our way is therefore better than God’s. I am afraid we might be saying that God does not make any sense, and our trust in Him may erode because of this.
Instead of asking that question, we must follow the example of Jesus, who is Himself God. Jesus himself also evangelised and called people to repent and believe (Matt 4:17, 23; Luke 4:43). Jesus was the One who knew that only those the Father has given Him will come to Him. He also was not surprised that many Jews did not believe because He knew that they were not His sheep. However, He was also the One who preached the gospel of the Kingdom wherever He went. He did not go around and say to people, “You, you, you are chosen, but you, you and you, are not. Sorry!” No, He did not do that. He preached to everyone who wanted to hear, whether or not they will believe. He preached to everyone whether or not they ‘have ear to hear.’ He sowed the seeds without discriminating the type of soils. Therefore, we should too. It is not our business to guess who are chosen and who are not.
Paul and Peter explain the doctrine of elections to those who are already saved so that they understood God’s sovereignty and they be grateful all their lives. For the unbelievers, however, they made it their business to preach the good news in their obedience to God and their love for the lost. Therefore, we should too.
2. God is pleased to use our preaching of the Gospel to save many.
God has chosen believers and He has foreknown whom He is going to save. In order for people to declare their belief, God has ordained that they should do so in response to the proclamation of the gospel. God has ordained that it pleases Him ‘through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe’ (1 Cor 1:21). Paul, arguably the greatest figure when it comes to the evangelisation of the nations, in Romans 10:14 also says, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?”
Paul also says that he ‘decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified’ (1 Cor 2:2) and that he is compelled to preach the gospel (1 Cor 9:16) because he knows that the gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (Romans 1:16).
If God has ordained that people will be saved when they dance to the music ‘Gangnam style’, then we must make it a priority to go to the whole world and play the music ‘Gangnam style’ to people of all nations. If they don’t understand the lyrics, we must make it a point to translate and help them understand. I know, it is a far-fetched illustration. But I hope you get the point.
Paul did not make it a priority to preach the gospel because he came up with that particular evangelisation technique. He did not try various methods and decided that preaching the gospel is the only one that worked. Instead, he received the stewardship from God (1 Cor 4), he knew the power of the Gospel unto salvation (Romans 1:16), and therefore, that was exactly what he busied himself with. So it should be with us. God has ordained it this way, therefore, we must busy ourselves with it too.
3. Predestination is the fuel for our global evangelisation
Contrary to the objection, predestination is in fact the very fuel, the very motivation for our evangelisation. How so? Think of it this way.
If God had not chosen His children, then salvation would have depended solely on how people responded to the Gospel. Then, if God had not decided to send His Spirit to work in the hearts of people, then nobody would have been able nor wanted to respond to the gospel, therefore nobody would have been saved at all. Therefore, if God had not decided to fully intervene, then we would not have had any reason to evangelise because every evangelisation effort would have failed.
The contrary, however, is true. Because God has chosen some to be saved, we have the assurance that our evangelisation effort will bear fruit because His sheep will hear His voice when they are called. Because the Spirit has decided to give birth to our spirit, we can have the confidence that some will respond to the foolishness of our preaching of gospel. We evangelise because we are sure of God’s effective work on the cross for his elects. Predestination is in fact the fuel and the very motivation for our preaching of the gospel.
History tells that the people who hold to the reformed doctrine of election are among the most fervent evangelists. Apostle Paul, Apostle Peter, St. Augustine, John Calvin, Martin Luther, Jonathan Edwards, George Whitfield, and Charles Spurgeon, just to name a few. They were so sure of God’s unconditional election that they preached the gospel knowing that God will be pleased to save many who hear. I am by no means saying that the Arminians are not fervent evangelists. In fact, they are perhaps even more so. However, they are so not because they are confident of the effectual election. Rather, they are so because they have to work with all their might to persuade or convince their hearers, and if possible, to produce faith in them. Having done so, they are in danger of crafting a message or a method that will ‘work’ to produce fruit rather than relying on being faithful to the seemingly ‘foolish’ and ‘stumbling’ gospel message. Of course, there is more nuances in this. But the danger is still true.
Might I add that I used the word ‘global’ above as well. If God has ordained that He will save many through the preaching of the gospel, then I should not make it my business to ‘choose’ whom I should preach the gospel to. We have no ground to look at one person and think that he or she is ‘more likely’ to respond to the gospel than others. We have no ground to discriminate whom we should preach the gospel to. The same gospel message is the one who will bring people to repentance, people of all tribes, all culture, all tongues, and all walks of life. Therefore, we go and make disciples of all nations.
J. Vernon McGee in one of his sermons said this:
“Now God knows who the elect are. I don’t. Someone came to Spurgeon one time and said, “Mr Spurgeon, if I believed as you do, I would not preach like you do. You say you believe that there are the elect, and yet you preach as if everybody can be saved.” Spurgeon’s answer was, “They can all be saved. If God had put a yellow streak up and down the backs of the elect, I’d go up and down the streets lifting up shirt tails to find out who had the yellow streak up and down his back. Then I’d give that person the gospel. But God didn’t do that. He told me to preach the gospel to every creature and that whosoever will may come.” That is our marching order, and as far as I am concerned, until God gives me the roll call of the elect, I am going to preach the “whosoever will” gospel. That is the gospel we are to preach today.”
Therefore, we must not divorce the doctrine of predestination from our call to evangelise. The God who chose is the same God who commanded us to evangelise. He is also the same God who ordained that the preaching of the gospel is the way people will be saved. Therefore, predestination should be the motivation, not hindrance, for our evangelisation. In short, we evangelise because we know that it does not depend on us.
There is, however, one very difficult objection raised against the unconditional election. “If God is the One who chose whom to be saved, why then did He only choose some, and not the others? Is God not fair this way?” This, I think, is the most difficult objections. I shall attempt to discuss this at the next post.
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