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If God Has Chosen, Why Evangelize and Participate in Global Missions?

We were at Balboa Park in San Diego, California, and it was a gorgeous April day in 2007. My friend and I were walking back to the car after having spent some time sharing the gospel with non-Christians. My friend heard me tell a gentleman I had witnessed to, “You broke God’s law but Jesus paid your fine,” and gently asked how I knew that Jesus had died for that man. I answered with the beloved verse, John 3:16, and he begin telling me about the Doctrines of Grace, more commonly known as Calvinism or “TULIP.” I thought he was crazy, but this conversation began my two-year journey of fighting, learning, and eventual accepting the Doctrines of Grace. 

As someone who loves sharing the gospel with the lost, one of the main concerns I had regarding Calvinism was its relationship to evangelism and global missions. Specifically, if God has already chosen who He would save before the world began (Ephesians 1:4), then why share the gospel? Why participate in global missions? It seemed as if Calvinism killed any motivation to reach the world for Jesus Christ. Yet, the more I researched and studied, the more I began to see that the opposite was true. Many of the great pastors, evangelists, and missionaries of the past were Calvinists and they saw no conflict between their belief in the Doctrines of Grace and local and global evangelism. However, the question remained as to how they were able to hold a Calvinistic soteriology and passion for souls. I found my answer when I read a certain passage from the Apostle Paul.

Paul’s Answer

2 Thessalonians is a letter dealing with eschatology and yet, it was in this book that I found an answer to my question. The Apostle Paul writes in 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14, “But we ought to thank God always for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God has chosen you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through our gospel, so that you might obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 

The main point of this passage isn’t to give an answer to this common question and objection regarding God’s election and evangelism but by the Spirit’s wisdom, it does give us secondary insight into the answer. St. Paul says that God chose the Thessalonian believers for salvation and that He called them through the gospel that Paul preached to them. 

If you ate breakfast this morning, how did that happen? Did God drop food into your stomach? Of course not. You had to get up, make yourself something to eat, and eat it. It was only at this point that you satisfied your hunger. God ordained that you would not go hungry this morning and the means by which His will took place is that you actively made and ate your food. In a similar fashion, God ordains the end (the salvation of His elect) and the means by which He accomplishes His end (Christians actively sharing the gospel). 

When it comes to the question of “Why evangelize and participate in global missions if God has already chosen?” the answer isn’t either/or but both/and. Because God has chosen, we go forward and reach our communities and the nations with the gospel. When rightly understood, the doctrine of unconditional election is not a deterrent to active evangelism and missions but is fuel for the evangelism and global missions fire!

Fuel for the Fire

In my experience of going overseas and of sharing the gospel here at home, the Doctrines of Grace have not hindered or killed my evangelistic and missional zeal in the slightest. Instead of killing my zeal, the Holy Spirit, through the Doctrines of Grace, has enhanced and grown my evangelistic and missional zeal. When I’m standing in front of a listening crowd of non-Christian students on a college campus or sitting down and talking with a non-Christian man in Central Asia, my hope isn’t that they’ll use their free will to believe in Christ. My hope and confidence is that the Holy Spirit will awaken them to the truth as they hear it from my lips, give them new hearts, grant them repentance and faith, and save them (John 3:1–16; Ezekiel 36:25–27; Philippians 1:29; 2 Timothy 2:25–26). 

2 Thessalonians 2:13–14 shows us that God has chosen His people for salvation, for obtaining the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the way He accomplishes that end is through His Church faithfully sharing the gospel with the lost and the Holy Spirit effectually calling those chosen by God in eternity past to salvation through our evangelism. Why go to those across the street from us? Why raise support, hop on a plane, and travel hours overseas to proclaim the gospel of the Savior who lived the only perfect life, died a sacrificial death, and triumphantly rose again from the dead three days later? We go because Jesus is worthy to receive the reward of His suffering, namely, the love, worship, and obedience of the nations! We go to those across the street and across the sea, confident that our elect brothers and sisters will hear the saving message of Jesus from our lips and willingly repent and place their trust in Jesus Christ alone for their salvation.

Will We Go?

If God has already chosen, why evangelize and participate in global missions?” Because it’s God’s sovereign and unconditional election of sinners that guarantees the success of the Church in discipling the nations. God has chosen a people for Himself from every tribe, language, and nation, purchased through Christ, and inwardly and effectually called by the Holy Spirit (Revelation 5:9). Our job therefore, is not to save anyone but to faithfully call the lost to Christ. Being successful in evangelism and missions is not determined by how many come to know Christ through our witness. Success in evangelism and missions is determined by faithfully telling others about Jesus. That’s our part and the Holy Spirit does His part in calling those we share with to salvation in Christ alone, all to the glory of God the Father. 

So will we go? Will we be faithful to tell a lost and dying world about the good news of Jesus Christ? Since God has chosen who He would save let us confidently go forth and lovingly proclaim to the nations the gospel of their redemption! 

Anthony English is the assistant director of the MTW West Coast Hub.

Anthony English Oct 12, 2021
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