The Gospel, Election, Calling and Prayer (Q&A)
Visitor: won't all men eventually be called (John 12:32)? Do we even pray for the salvation of our loved ones? I understand evangelism but does prayer do anything for salvation if it's been preset?
Response: What we believe in is not fatalism but what the Bible calls election. There is a difference. Fatalism would mean people would be saved or lost no matter what we did. But in election, God uses means to accomplish His ends. Election, by itself, does not save anyone. Election is God's blueprint (so to speak) about what He will do in time by Jesus Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit through the preaching of the gospel. In other words we cast the seed of the gospel indiscriminately to all men, and it will fall on many types of soil. The fallow ground (heart) that God plows up and makes good is the heart that will receive the seed of the gospel and when the Holy Spirit "germinates" that seed, there will be faith and life. Consider, that a farmer can work his hardest but unless God blesses the ground with rain then the farmer's work will be in vain. In other words, no one will come to Christ apart from hearing the gospel. The seed is necessary. However water is also necessary. We must pray down blessing from heaven if that seed is to bear fruit. The gospel is necessary but not enough by itself. "We plant and water, but God causes the growth."
You see only if God is sovereign in salvation does prayer make sense. If God cannot change a persons heart when we pray for them, then what use is prayer? If God can do nothing to change a heart of stone to a heart of flesh then prayer does nothing to help a person. An Arminian prayer is useless if God cannot change the will but only pleads with them from the outside. That is no more than we do. But since God does the saving by granting eyes so we can see, ears so we can hear and a new heart that we might believe, we can be confident that those we pray for have hope. Their salvation may be ordained but it is ordained through the means of God's people's prayers and the preaching of the word, apart from which they cannot be saved (See Rom 10). God put you in the place you are in so that he can gather up his elect through your prayers and witness to them of the gospel. What is "preset" is that people will only be gathered if you pray for and preach to them. Again, God ordains the means and the end....(the prayers of his saints that his elect may be saved).
Look closely at this passage on God's calling....
In 1 Cor 20:21-25 it says,.
it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but 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. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
Notice there are two types of calling in this passage. 1) the outward preaching of the gospel to Jews and gentiles. It is a stumbling block and folly to them. and 2) the inward call of the Holy Spirit to those AMONG Jews and Gentiles who will be saved.
Next, you asked "won't all men eventually be called (John 12:32)?"
When reading The Gospel of John chapter 12 in context we see a passage in which Jesus is speaking to Gentiles. In this passage Jesus is not saying that all men without exception will hear the gospel (which obviously does not happen) but he is saying that he will draw all men without distinction, both Jews and Gentiles, to himself. Up to then God almost exclusively worked redemptively with Jews, but now that Christ has come, the way for Gentiles has been opened.
I did not pull this interpretation out of a hat. Not only does the context of Gentiles fit, but also notice that the same concept is used this way in other parts of the gospel of John. In John 11:50 “Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them,...You know nothing at all. Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. I. e. Jesus died not only for Jews but Gentiles as well. Not all without exception but for the scattered children of God in their midst.
Hope this helps