Last night I had a wonderful conversation about God and His character, and the conversation topic arose,
“If God is sovereign, and if He predestines people, why then would we share the Gospel with an unbeliever?”
This is the paralysis under which the hyper-Calvinist functions (or does not function), believing that everything is predestined and therefore it does not matter what I do. This is also a foundation on which those who do not believe in God’s sovereignty would argue their case for missions. If God has elected and chosen people from every tribe, then He will figure it out. I do not have to go.
In one sense, this is true. God’s plan will not be thwarted.
“Remember this, and be assured;
Recall it to mind, you transgressors.
Remember the former things long past,
For I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is no one like Me,
Declaring the end from the beginning,
And from ancient times things which have not been done,
Saying, ‘My purpose will be established,
And I will accomplish all My good pleasure’;
Calling a bird of prey from the east,
The man of My purpose from a far country.
Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass.
I have planned it, surely I will do it.
– Is 46.8-11
God had the end planned and He declared it from the beginning. He has set His purpose and guarantees that it will be established and accomplished: in details as minute as a bird’s activity and in details as applicable as calling a man to travel to a foreign country to declare God’s glory. Whatever He has spoken and planned, it will come to pass.
That being said, we may trick ourselves into thinking there is no responsibility or accountability on our part. God, however, knew (and even planned) that we would disobey, become ineffective or lazy, and and therefore while we live in rebellion or ignorance, God is using others to accomplish His will.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.
– Eph 1.3-6
It is God who gives us the gift of faith, through grace, to believe and be saved (Eph 2.8-9). And He gives that gift of faith to those whom He predestined before the foundation of the world. Jesus said that all that the Father gives to Him will come to Him and they will not fall away (John 6.37). God chose some and gave them to Jesus for salvation.
However, we also learn that,
“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.”
– Rom 10.17
So faith is a gift from God. And He only gives it through the hearing of the proclamation of His word. Paul, the apostle, wrote both of those passages as well as this:
“WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.” How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!”
– Rom 10.13-15
Paul believed that God chose people for salvation. Look at Paul’s story! He was a persecutor of the Church, and was traveling on His way to arrest more Christians when Jesus appeared. Blinded him. Called him. Appointed him. Paul was not seeking Jesus, He was persecuting Him by killing His followers. Only Jesus Himself could change the course of his life, and He did. Radically.
Paul also knew that God intended to use believers to be the mouthpiece for the accomplishment of His work: glorifying Himself by saving people from every tribe, tongue and nation (Rev 5.9). Jesus, though He shamelessly stated, “I chose you, you did not choose me” and promised that all that the Father had chosen would come to Him would be effectively saved also gave the great commission and commanded the disciples to go out and make disciples of all the nations (John 15.16, 6.37, Matt 28.18-20).
We see most clearly the role that we play in 1 Corinthians, when Paul spoke of the role he played in starting the church. Paul was broken for the lost. He made it his goal to preach where Jesus had never been named before (Rom 15.21). He wanted to spread the word throughout the world. But he told the Corinthians that he only planted the seed (1 Cor 3.6). Another teacher named Apollos watered the seed by teaching, but it was God alone who caused the growth. Paul could not save anyone, nor could Apollos. Only God.
Paul was concerned about glorifying God by obeying Him. On the road to Damascus, when Jesus called him, he was appointed to take the Gospel to the world, and God would save people through his preaching. Paul saved no one. He obeyed. And Jesus saved them.
There is a mutual responsibility here. Paul had the choice when Jesus stopped him that day. Jesus blinded him, called him and gave him instructions. Paul listened. God had predestined that Paul would listen, so it is to His glory and honor that Paul obeyed. But Paul also, in his mind, made the choice to obey and therefore was counted righteous.
The opposite example would be Joseph and his ten brothers. The ten brothers hated Joseph and wanted to kill him. But they ultimately decided to sell him into slavery and lie to their father, saying that they had found his bloody cloak and must be dead. They sinned. They hated Joseph, they planned to kill him, they got rid of him and they lied. But God had predestined and ordained all of that to happen for the delivery of Israel during a season of 7 years of famine. Thus, Joseph could tell his brothers, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive” (Gen 50.20).
God was responsible for Joseph being sold into slavery in Egypt and ultimately raising to power as second in command over the whole country. But the ten brothers are also responsible for their sin against Joseph and their evil intentions. While they were functioning according to God’s perfect plan, they had wickedness in their heart.
So what does all of that have to do with missions? And sharing the Gospel? We have been commanded to share every day. We have been called as the church to make disciples of every nation. And people cannot believe unless they hear. God will cause all whom He has chosen to hear, and He chooses to use us as His mouthpiece. Therefore we go. We go joyfully and we go in confidence. Because we claim the promise that God will have some people from every single tribe, language and nation in eternity. Therefore some people from the country where you go will believe. It is promised. God has proclaimed it. His purpose will not be thwarted. You do not have to convince or save anyone. You only have to share. And trust God to provide the growth.
But when we choose to not share and to not go, we are being disobedient. And we will be held responsible for our wicked hearts, even though God has ordained it for the ultimate good.