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"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)

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  • « The Main Issue of The Reformation - The Necessity v. The Sufficiency of Grace | Main | Book Review: The Truth About Man, by Paul David Washer »

    What's would be the point of Evangelism if Divine Election is true? by Pastor John Samson

    What would be the point of evangelism if some people are "elect" and some are not and don't have the free will to choose Christ? Doesn't this make evangelism a farce?

    Well may I first alter the question? In that I am convinced that Divine election is clearly taught in Scripture, I believe it would be better to ask, "Since Divine election is true, why are we told to evangelize?"

    The first obvious answer to this is because God tells us to. The same Bible that teaches Divine Sovereign Election in Romans chapters 8 and 9, also gives us Romans 10, saying "how shall they hear without a preacher?" Romans 10 is in no way a contradiction to Romans 8 and 9.

    The simple answer to this question is that God has ordained both the ends and the means. The ends, are His elect coming to Himself in saving faith. The means, is the proclamation of the Gospel.

    In John 10: 16, Jesus, in speaking of His sheep amongst the Gentiles said, "I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd."

    Notice the experience of the early Apostles in Acts 13:
    43 Now when the meeting of the synagogue had broken up, many of the Jews and of the God-fearing proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who, speaking to them, were urging them to continue in the grace of God.
    44 The next Sabbath nearly the whole city assembled to hear the word of the Lord.
    45 But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began contradicting the things spoken by Paul, and were blaspheming.
    46 Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, "It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first; since you repudiate it and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles.
    47 "For so the Lord has commanded us, 'I HAVE PLACED YOU AS A LIGHT FOR THE GENTILES, THAT YOU MAY BRING SALVATION TO THE END OF THE EARTH.'"

    48 When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed."

    Who was it who believed the Gospel here? "As many as had been appointed to eternal life."

    The ends - the elect's salvation; the means - the preaching of the Gospel.

    Dr. James White points out the parallel between 13:46 and 13:48 - "the Jews "repudiated" the word of God (to push aside, ignore, refuse to listen to) and, by so doing, judged themselves unworthy of eternal life (a conclusion they would have rejected, of course, but this is Paul's divine interpretation of their actions). In contrast, the Gentiles rejoiced at the word of the Lord. But the second half of the contrast is very interesting, for though our English translations tend to place the verb at the end of the clause, in Greek the verb comes first ("they believed") and the controversial descriptive phrase comes after. Who believed? Those who had been appointed to eternal life. The number of attempts to get around the meaning of the phrase is large, but the meaning is clear: while both groups had heard the same message in the same context in the same language based upon the same Scriptural texts, it was not that one group was "better" or "more spiritual" so that they believed: no, those who believed did so because they had been (graciously) appointed to eternal life (just as Lydia later in the narrative)."

    We should also note how the Lord spoke to the Apostle Paul, in the middle of an intense situation, telling him to stay in a certain city. Why was this? Well let's read the text in Acts 18:9 And the Lord said to Paul in the night by a vision, "Do not be afraid any longer, but go on speaking and do not be silent; 10 for I am with you, and no man will attack you in order to harm you, for I have many people in this city." 11 And he settled there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.

    In other words, the Lord said to Paul, "Stay here, for I have many people in this city... I have many of My sheep here that will hear My voice and follow Me as you preach in My Name."

    God ordains both the ends - His chosen sheep who will hear Christ's voice, and the means - prayer, and the preaching of the Gospel to all. And all who are ordained to eternal life will believe.

    The fact is, we don't know who the elect are. They are not walking around the countryside with the letter "E" for Elect stamped upon their foreheads. We are therefore to go into all the world and preach the Gospel to everyone, knowing ahead of time, that only His elect will respond to the preaching of the Gospel.

    Without election, evangelism would be much like a salesman trying to sell his products in a graveyard. Mankind is spiritually dead in trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1), and only through the gracious act of God in electing, predestinating, and regenerating a specific people, will anyone ever turn to Christ. As Dr. R. C. Sproul has commented, "If the final decision for the salvation of fallen sinners were left in the hands of fallen sinners, we would despair all hope that anyone would be saved."

    Again, God ordains both the ends and the means. Prayer and evangelism are vital components of the means.

    A. A. Hodge once asked, "If God has eternally decreed that you should live, what is the use of your breathing? If God has eternally decreed that you should talk, what is the use of your opening your mouth? If God has eternally decreed that you should reap a crop, what is the use of your sowing the seed? If God has eternally decreed that your stomach should contain food, what is the use of your eating?" (Evangelical Theology, 92-93).

    Hodge answered his own questions, by saying, "In order to educate us, [God] demands that we should use the means, or go without the ends which depend upon them. There are plenty of fools who make the transcendental nature of eternity and of the relation of the eternal life of God to the time-life of man an excuse for neglecting prayer. But of all the many fools in the United States, there is not one absurd enough to make the same eternal decree an excuse for not chewing his food or for not voluntarily inflating his lungs." (p. 93)

    I think its important to point out that our prayers for unbelievers would be next to useless if God did not have the power to bring someone from death to life. Those who reject God's sovereignty in salvation are trusting that God cannot really help the unregenerate by giving them a new understanding, for in their way of thinking, this would mean that God is tampering with free will, something He would not do. So in that way of thinking, when we pray for unbelievers, God can only do something outside of them, (wooing, encouraging, offering grace, etc.) but never anything inside of them (taking out the heart of stone, putting in a heart of flesh with a positive desire for Christ), which, when you think about it, is not very helpful to those who have no desire for God and who are dead in trespasses and sins. In other words, praying for people to come to Christ makes no sense unless God alone does the saving.

    Understanding the nature of regeneration (or being born again) has a vital part to play in our understanding of this. Dr. J. I. Packers defines regeneration as follows: "Regeneration is the spiritual change wrought in the heart of man by the Holy Spirit in which a person's inherently sinful nature is so radically impacted, his disposition so affected, his mind so illumined, his will so liberated that a person can and will respond to God in saving faith and willingly live in accord with the will of God."

    1 John 5:1 says, "Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God." The verb tenses are very revealing. As Dr. John Piper points out, a literal translation reads: "Everyone who goes on believing (pisteuon, present, continuous action) that Jesus is the Christ has been born (gennesanta, perfect, completed action with abiding effects) of God."

    1 John 5:1 makes it clear that faith is the evidence of regeneration, not the cause of it. Since both repentance and faith are possible only because of the regenerating work of God, both are called the gift of God in scripture. (Eph. 2:8, 9; Phil. 1:29; 2 Tim 2:24-26). Acts 18:27 says, "When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed."

    Church history shows that rather than belief in election causing missions work to wane, the exact opposite is true. A case could be made that in the history of the Church, the men most used by God in the cause of evangelism, were passionate believers in God's Sovereign Grace in election. Of course, we would say that the Lord Jesus Christ and the Apostle Paul believed in it (Jesus preached it boldly, and of course, it was Paul who penned Romans 8, 9, Ephesians 1 and 2, 2 Thess. 2:13, 14, etc.). So too did men like Luther, Edwards, Whitefield, and C. H. Spurgeon. Here are just a few of their quotes in this regard:

    "If any man doth ascribe of salvation, even the very least, to the free will of man, he knoweth nothing of grace, and he hath not learnt Jesus Christ aright." Martin Luther

    Jonathan Edwards, used tremendously by God in the Great Awakening in America wrote, "...the conversion of a sinner being not owing to a man's self determination, but to God's determination, and eternal election, which is absolute, and depending on the sovereign will of God, and not on the free will of man; as is evident from what has been said: and it being very evident from the Scriptures, that the eternal election of saints to the faith and holiness, is also an election of them to eternal salvation; hence their appointment to salvation must also be absolute, and not depending on their contingent, self-determining will."

    "Man hath a free will to go to hell, but none to go to heaven, till God worketh in him to will and to do his good pleasure." George Whitefield

    "I do not come into this pulpit hoping that perhaps somebody will of his own free will return to Christ. My hope lies in another quarter. I hope that my Master will lay hold of some of them and say, "You are mine, and you shall be mine. I claim you for myself." My hope arises from the freeness of grace, and not from the freedom of the will. Free will carried many a soul to hell, but never a soul to heaven." C. H. Spurgeon

    "The greatest evangelists and missionaries of Protestant era have been Calvinistic or Reformed. That is, they have embraced and preached the doctrines of grace. Whether it is Bunyan or Spurgeon, Carey or Nettleton or Whitfield or Duff or Stott, that you are talking about - the Baptist tradition, the Congregational tradition, the Anglican tradition, the Presbyterian tradition and so on - find the hall of fame evangelists and missionaries and you'll find folks who live, breathe, teach and preach the doctrines of grace." Dr. Ligon Duncan, Together for the Gospel blog, Feb 28, 2006

    "All that the Father gives Me will come to Me." Jesus - John 6:37.

    Posted by John Samson on October 26, 2009 04:34 PM

    Comments

    This is timely post for me. My 10yo daughter asked this question just last night. Wonderful reply. I look forward to sharing some of this with her.

    Why doesn't anyone talk about the OTHER list of names God predestined to eternity? This would be the staggering masses of humanity cast into hell for no other reason but to... what... bring God glory and honor? I have a great deal of difficulty relating this to 'righteous judgement' at any level. How does such mass brutality, unprovoked by deeds (since it was pre-ordained before creation) glorify God?

    DRaney - If you are asking a genuine question here and seek a scriptural answer, I think the following article is very informative by Dr. R. C. Sproul as to what the reformed position is on this subject: http://www.the-highway.com/DoublePredestination_Sproul.html

    I'm confused. Can God save someone if they haven't heard the word? If so, what is the point of evangelism. If they can't be saved without the word, then their fate is bound by free will - not their own free will but the will of the evangelist who wills or does not will to evangelize. Could we thwart God's will by ceasing to evangelize?

    Interestingly, the writer doesn't answer the question; rather, he re-words it to fit his view of Scripture. For someone who believes in free will, the outcome is predictable. As reformed theologians it is imperative that you answer the real question. Is evangelism simply about obedience? Was Christ simply being obedient to the Fathers will? Or, was His love for His created ones also a factor? Why is it that in the end times "the love of many will grow cold?" Could it be due to our lack of love both for man and God? Does a doctrine that excludes man's free will also avoid the love motivation to reach the harvest field for Christ?

    Raw

    You believe in free will? The will of man without grace is not free, but is enslaved. Do you then affirm that a person can come to faith in Christ apart from grace? -- apart from the work of the Holy Spirit? Because as soon as you acknowledge that man left to himself without the Spirit cannot come to Christ (John 6:65) then you likewise acknowledge he has no free will.

    Unless God acts, man is not free. That is why he needs Christ in the first place.

    The reason that evangelism is needed is because no one comes to Christ apart from believing the gospel. But the gospel is like a seed ... which hits the fallow ground of man's hardened heart. The Farmer needs to plow up the fallow ground if it is to enter a heart receptive to it. No soil is naturally ready. God must work in the heart to make it ready. Likewise the seed must have the right climate and rains from heaven if it is to grow. The Holy Spirit comes and germinates the seed, so to speak. In other words, man, left to himself would never believe the gospel. That is why the work of the Holy Spirit is necessary. He calls us to spread the gospel because only that seed can save. Election does not save, the gospel does. Election is merely a blueprint of what God intends to do in time through the gospel by the power of the Holy Spirit.

    It is not our duty to know who is elect or who is not elected ones. if we know who is elect and who is not than we become like God. some questions to Calvinist:
    What is the significance of election if the elected one is not saved? If elected one is not saved, than there is no point of saying I am elected.

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