Predestination and Missions: The Perfect Match

By Mike Pettengill, Sep 8, 2016

Predestination is a biblical doctrine. Both the unconditional election and reprobation of man are spelled out in the texts of God’s ordained Word. So too are the commands that Christians are to share His gospel with the lost around the globe. To many the concept of a sovereign deity who chooses those who are elect and those who are reprobate and then mandates His followers to reach out to the lost and share Christianity sounds conflicting, or at least confusing.

Indeed, the same God who commands missions clearly spells out predestination. This is not an inconsistency. Predestination unifies and clarifies the gospel and missions leaves humanity without an excuse. The doctrines of predestination and missions are not at odds, but elegantly complementary.

Predestination is not a barrier to missions
Some claim predestination creates an unnecessary barrier for missions. Dissenters ask, how can a Bible believing Christian espouse predestination and have a zeal for missions? If God has determined who will be saved, they believe, there is no need to engage in missions. However, the strong union of predestination and missions has some very valuable results. Much that is man is diminished and all that is God is amplified.

Disciples of Christ share the gospel, not because they are gifted, but because they are commanded to do so (Matt. 28:18-20). Even though God is the one who reclaims the sinner, He has ordained that His effectual call of the elect will occur via the dissemination of the gospel message and not without it (John 17:20, Acts 26:16-18, Rom. 1:16, 1 Thes. 1:4-5, 1 Cor. 1:23-24). The missionary cannot be puffed up with pride if his actions do not determine the result. Only a fool could become conceited by performing actions which the Creator commanded Him to execute.

If God is the only one who is involved in the salvation of an individual, God is the only one worthy of being consulted on the matter. Disciples of Jesus are to pray to Christ for the salvation of the lost. Christians are instructed to pray for the those separated from Christ. Increased prayer in the name of God brings increased glory. When we pray to God we are acknowledging two very valuable points; we can’t and God can. The Christian diminishes himself so as to elevate his Father. An increase in missions and prayer for missions point to the fact God is about to unleash something miraculous.

Predestination brings missionaries freedom in closed cultures
Missionaries are to gain boldness through predestination. Hearts of men and people groups who were previously thought to be closed to the gospel have been opened to God’s grace in a way that can only be attributed to God. It is incredibly freeing to the missionary to know a person, culture or country is closed only if God wills it so. John Piper preached, “The great biblical doctrines of unconditional election, and predestination unto sonship, and irresistible grace in the preaching of Christ are mighty incentives to venture forth into a Muslim or Hindu or Buddhist or tribal culture where people seem hard as nails against the preaching of the gospel.” The hardest of hearts are cleaved wide open by God and provide assurance to the missionaries who labor in His name.

Predestination energized historic mission leaders
Far from being a deterrent to missions, God’s sovereign election and reprobation have historically been energizing to those who acknowledge the doctrine of predestination. Reformed and covenantal preachers and missionaries have been some of the most passionate in history.

John Calvin sent missionaries into France and as far off as Brazil. Calvin was not deterred from sending missionaries even after many were martyred. Calvin once said predestination was, “the eternal and unchangeable decree of God by which He foreordained, for His own glory and the display of His attributes of mercy and justice, a part of the human race, without any merit of their own, to eternal salvation, and another part, in just punishment of their sin, to eternal damnation.”

George Whitefield was at the center of the First Great Awakening. He was believed to have preached more than 18,000 sermons and traveled across the Atlantic more than a dozen times. Whitefield once said, “Man is nothing: he 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.”

Charles Spurgeon was arguably the most influential preacher of the 19th century. In his life he preached 3,600 sermons and published 49 volumes. Spurgeon said, “We must have the heathen converted; God has myriads of His elect among them, we must go and search for them till we find them.”

D. James Kennedy founded Evangelism Explosion, which is believed to be the most used evangelism training in history. Kennedy once wrote, “God is determined to save His elect and He is perfectly succeeding in doing just that.”

The Perfect Match
Predestination is no hurdle to missions. Instead, truly understanding the biblical doctrine of predestination is motivation for missions. Without God being the prime mover and man being a subordinate instrument, no sinner could be saved.

Predestination is the merciful and loving outpouring of a just and perfect Creator. Our good and sovereign Lord identified the elect for mercy and the reprobate for justice. The missionary is an obedient disciple whom God uses to call His elect home. Together, predestination and missions bring glory to God and obedience to His followers.

Mike Pettengill has served with MTW in Honduras and Equatorial Guinea. He is now the director of MTW’s West Coast office.

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