Calvinism & Evangelism
Someone might reasonably ask the question, “why preach the gospel and witness to unbelievers if God has chosen all those who will be saved before the foundation of the world as described fairly clearly in Ephesians 1:4ff?” The verse says: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love; it then goes on to say: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will (v. 5). Based on these two verses (and others), some have concluded that the elect will be saved without regard to human actions; therefore, evangelism is unnecessary. The people who adopt this perspective are known as ‘hyper-Calvinists.’ I intentionally added the word ‘hyper’ because I am not aware of any leading Calvinists who don’t believe in the importance of evangelism. Interestingly enough, we do have Baptists who are hyper-Calvinists; they are ‘Primitive Baptists’ or ‘Hard Shell’ Baptists. Now, while I do agree with the ‘hyper-Calvinists’ that God doesn’t need us to do anything to bring about someone’s salvation, I cannot agree that evangelism is unnecessary. Let me define evangelism as the efforts of an individual (the evangelist) to bring someone to a point of conversion by a declaration of the gospel of the LORD Jesus Christ. You see evangelism is the means that God has ordained to bring the elect to salvation. If you knew that God had predestined that your house would not burn to the ground, but instead, it would be saved from destruction, yet you saw it on fire, would you do nothing? Or would you do everything in your power to extinguish it? Evangelism is sort of like spraying water on the fire; it is the means that God has ordained that the house be saved from destruction. (Granted, this is not a perfect illustration because it is Christ alone who saves us from destruction.) The Apostle Paul is a great example of what I am talking about. According to Acts 9:15, Paul was a chosen vessel of God to bring the gospel to the Gentiles. Yet, Paul still needs to be converted, and the means whereby God brought him to a point of conversion was evangelism—that is to say, the LORD Jesus appeared to Paul and confronted him with his sin and his need to repent and believe that Jesus was the resurrected Son of God who died for his sins. So, not only did God choose and predestine that Paul to be an apostle, God (the son of God) also served as the evangelist to bring Paul to Himself. At this point, we can look at Paul’s life and writings and see that his takeaway from this personal encounter with the Lord was not that God would continue to serve as the sole evangelist to bring whomever He predestined to be saved to salvation. No. Paul reaches just the opposite conclusion, as he now sees himself as the evangelist. The same Paul who wrote Ephesians 1:3-11 which has some of the strongest language about predestination in the Bible was the church planting, gospel preaching apostle and evangelist who helped spread the good news all over the known world. For Paul, the fact that God had elected souls to salvation before the foundation of the world was the very fuel for his evangelism. It is what drove him to preach from city to city. Paul knew that God had elected all kinds of people to Himself, and the means that God had/has established to bring about conversion was intentional evangelism. Paul wrote that faith comes from hearing the word of God (Romans 10), so he told anyone who would listen about Jesus and what He had done on their behalf. And clearly, Paul never caveated what he said to people with the disclaimer that the gospel only applies to the elect. The same Paul who wrote Ephesians 1 is the same Paul who wrote 1 Timothy 2:4, which states that God “will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” The Greek word for ‘will’ in this verse is rendered ‘desires and desirous’ 16 times in other verses in the KJV. So, if we insert that rendering into the text instead, the message seems to be even clearer: God desires that all men be saved, and come unto the knowledge of the truth. The Sovereign God of the Universe desires that all men be saved, and it is the evangelist who brings them the truth (Jesus—the Truth). And it is to this desire that we appeal to God to save their souls, and it is with the knowledge that there are still elect souls on this planet that we continue to evangelize. When was the last time you were an evangelist?
Posted by Pastor Sean