Sunday, June 10, 2012

Why Does Calvinism Matter? - Part 2: Evangelism and Global Missions

Other Posts in this Series:

Calvinism grounds biblical evangelism. We live in a time of pervasive shallow evangelism. Many do “evangelism” by saying things like, “follow Jesus and He will give you a better life,” or “accept Jesus to make an impact on the world,” or “pray this prayer and you will go to heaven when you die,” or they simply tell their own personal testimony.

By contrast, Calvinistic evangelism emphasizes biblical doctrines, such as the holiness of God, the law of God summarized by the Ten Commandments, the sinfulness of mankind, the cross of Christ, the free grace of God, the need for repentant faith in Christ to be righteous before God and the need for believers to be baptized, join a local church, and live a holy life with the Ten Commandments as our guide to the glory of God.  Christ evangelized the lost by convicting men of sin and calling them to follow Himself.  See Lk 18:18-30; 19:1-10, etc.

Some fear that biblical and doctrinal evangelism will come up short on conversions. They are afraid that too few people will respond to a rigorously biblical message. But Calvinists have a theology that allows them to rest in the knowledge that God's elect will respond to Christ's message without manipulation, without any watering down or perverting of the message, and without pragmatic, numbers-oriented, methodologies.

Christ taught that the reprobate do not believe the gospel, but the elect always hear His voice and follow Him. He said, “You do not believe because you are not part of My flock. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” (Jn 10:26-27). He also said, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws Him . . . Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me” (Jn 6:44-45). Thus, Calvinism's doctrines of effectual grace and unconditional election (the sheep will respond to Christ's voice) preserve the purity of the gospel because they free us to preach the biblical message and trust God with the results.

True gospel preaching always has a twofold effect: life and death. “We are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life” (2 Cor 2:15-16). While the Calvinist longs for sinners to turn to Christ and prays for their salvation (Rom 10:1), his theology also teaches that the gospel only penetrates the hearts of the elect and that it hardens those who are perishing.  In both penetrating and hardening, the Word of God accomplishes God's design.  “So shall My Word be that goes out from My mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose and succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (Is 55:11).

The Calvinist can say with Paul, “We have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's Word, but by open statement of the truth, we would commend ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing” (2 Cor 4:2-4). Paul's confidence in the doctrine of election led him to declare that the gospel is only veiled to “those who are perishing,” but Paul understood that the “called” would respond favorably. In 1 Corinthians 1:23-24, Paul wrote, “We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”

Therefore, Calvinism matters because it grounds biblical evangelism and gives the preacher confidence that God will use His Word to convert the elect. We may preach the Word openly and trust that God will bring in the harvest of His chosen people.

Calvinism motivates global missions. Another reason Calvinism matters is that it is one of the greatest biblical motives of global mission work. Calvinists believe that Christ's death actually purchased an elect people from every nation in the world; therefore, the missionary enterprise cannot fail.

Revelation 5:9 says, “And they sang a new song, saying, 'Worthy are You to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by Your blood, You ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.” Christ didn't merely “potentially” ransom people, or hope to ransom people, as non-Calvinists believe; rather, He "actually" ransomed (bought out of slavery to guilt and sin) men and women from among all the nations of the earth! Missions cannot fail. This is a powerful reason to do mission work.

Far from de-motivating or discouraging missions, the certainty that God will save His elect people was Paul's great hope as a missionary. While Paul was experiencing persecution and resistance to the gospel in the city of Corinth, the Lord Jesus appeared to him in a vision and said, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people” (Acts 18:9-10). Christ encouraged Paul to press on with his mission work because He had “many in this city who are My people.”

In 2 Timothy 2:8-10, Paul said, “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the Word of God is not bound! Therefore, I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.” Though mission work around the world will face stiff opposition from Satan and this fallen world, with Paul, Christian missionaries can “endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain salvation.” Missionaries can press on, knowing that their labor is not in vain (1 Cor 15:58), but that Christ will have His inheritance of nations.

That Calvinism is a great motive to mission work is not theoretical. The modern mission movement emerged from Calvinistic (Particular) Baptists in England. William Carey, the father of modern missions, was a strict Calvinist Baptist, like his theological mentor, Andrew Fuller, who went to India to proclaim Christ and plant churches. Carey worked for seven years without seeing even one convert to Christ. But he continued to preach, pray, and translate the Bible, even though he saw no results of his labor. What encouraged him to keep on “plodding?” He wrote this to his sisters in England:
I feel as a farmer does about his crop: sometimes I think the seed is springing and thus I hope; a little time blasts all, and my hopes are gone like a cloud. They were only weeds which appeared; or if a little corn sprung up, it quickly dies, being either choked with weeds or parched up by the sun of persecution. Yet I still hope in God, and will go forth in strength, and make mention of His righteousness, even of His only.
Carey understood that he was to preach the Word and sow the seed, but God alone provides the growth. “So neither he who plants nor waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth” (1 Cor 3:7).

Thus, Calvinism matters because biblically, theologically, and historically, it motivates the great work of global missions. Stay tuned for part 3.


  1. what if i am not one of the "elect" and dont have a desire to follow Christ? what if i am not one of the elect and desire to be? looks like i am destined for hell regardless so why not adopt the YOLO lifestyle and seek to only satisfy my carnal desires.

  2. Bryan, thanks for the reply. The Bible says that not only do the non-elect not desire Christ, prior to God opening their hearts, the elect don't desire Christ either. Speaking of all men, including Jews and Gentiles, Scripture says, "None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God" (Rom 3:10-11); "There is no one who calls upon your name, who rouses himself to take hold of You" (Isa 64:7). Therefore, none of the non-elect want to be elect.

    If anyone desires Christ, that is a desire contrary to his natural state, and it is proof that the person is elect and has in fact already been effectually called to salvation (2 Peter 1:5-10).