Predestination and Evangelism

Does Predestination Make Evangelism Unnecessary?

If God has already predetermined that only certain people will be saved (unconditional election), then why should Christians bother to engage in evangelism and missions? Perhaps you have heard this question? Here are some brief thoughts. 

Christ indiscriminately called men to repentance even though He knew that not all would believe; therefore, so must we. It is as simple as that. We do not know who His chosen ones are, and we do not need to know in order to invite people to Christ. Furthermore, those who deny sovereign predestination still have the same problem. In their scheme, God foreknows who will believe (but does not foreordain); therefore, how can a genuine offer be made to those He knows will reject?

The offer of the gospel is no less genuine simply because some will refuse. There is historical evidence of God’s dealing with men in this way:

i. Moses and Pharaoh:  "They will pay heed to what you say; and you with the elders of Israel will come to the king of Egypt and you will say to him, 'The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us. So now, please, let us go a three days' journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God.' But I know that the king of Egypt will not permit you to go, except under compulsion” (Exodus 3:18,19).

ii. Ezekiel’s ministry to God’s people: “Then He said to me, ‘Son of man, go to the house of Israel and speak with My words to them. For you are not being sent to a people of unintelligible speech or difficult language, but to the house of Israel, nor to many peoples of unintelligible speech or difficult language, whose words you cannot understand. But I have sent you to them who should listen to you; yet the house of Israel will not be willing to listen to you, since they are not willing to listen to Me. Surely the whole house of Israel is stubborn and obstinate. Behold, I have made your face as hard as their faces and your forehead as hard as their foreheads. Like emery harder than flint I have made your forehead. Do not be afraid of them or be dismayed before them, though they are a rebellious house.’ Moreover, He said to me, ’Son of man, take into your heart all My words which I will speak to you and listen closely. Go to the exiles, to the sons of your people, and speak to them and tell them, whether they listen or not, “Thus says the Lord GOD” ’ ” (Ezekiel 3:4-11).

Some argue that those who espouse the doctrines of grace are slackers in evangelism efforts. Without consideration of what qualifies as biblical evangelism and what does not, it is true that there are Calvinists (predestinarians) who are not zealous for the gospel, even some who mistakenly hide behind their doctrinal system. However, to argue that predestination per se leads to a lack of biblical evangelism is fallacious reasoning. The exact objection could be raised against anyone who denies predestination (Arminians).  This person is not zealous for the gospel; this person is an Arminian; therefore Arminianism discourages evangelism. Moreover, we could cite boatloads of Arminians who are slackers in evangelism efforts. However, this does not necessarily establish a cause and effect relationship between a specific belief and specific practice, even though practice is indeed driven by belief. Rather, it is more likely that a person is uninterested in biblical evangelism because of personal dispositional considerations or plain disobedience rather than because of a particular belief system.

It is helpful to focus on the fact that God foreordained the means as well as the ends. Therefore, God has foreordained our work in order to accomplish His end. We are the means. This can become muddled because we do not know the future. We do not know the ends that God has foreordained; but we do know that we must work. In this vein, we pray. We pray because God invites us to pray; we pray because God instructs us to pray; we pray knowing that God ordains prayer as a means to His ends; we pray because from both His and our vantage points, prayer does change things. We evangelize because God has predetermined the means as well as the end. The means is the Word which is normally communicated by people!

Further, we speak to men about their need for the gospel because God tells us to. That settles the issue. It makes no difference what we believe about predestination.

Related to this is the charge that predestination discourages ministry. Historically, this is simply not true. Whether Andrew Fuller or Charles Spurgeon or George Whitfield or Russ Schelling—history is filled with consistent Calvinists who have worked diligently for Christ and His gospel.

© Copyright. Joseph Flatt. 2016. All rights reserved. May be used for educational purposes without written permission but with a citation to this source.