Studies in The Baptist Catechism: Section Five – Christ the Mediator (Q.23)

Earlier Studies –

Listen to the audio for this lesson here and here.

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Q.23: Did God leave all mankind to perish in the estate of sin and misery?

A. God having out of His mere good pleasure, from all eternity, elected some to everlasting life,1 did enter into a covenant of grace, to deliver them out of the estate of sin and misery, and to bring them into an estate of salvation by a Redeemer.2

1Ephesians 1:4-5

2Romans 3:20-22; Galatians 3:21-22

The Baptist Confession teaches us that “the high mystery of predestination is to be handled with special prudence and care, that men attending the will of God revealed in his Word, and yielding obedience thereunto, may, from the certainty of their effectual vocation, be assured of their eternal election.” In so doing, we are told that the result will be a certain “matter of praise, reverence, and admiration of God, and of humility, diligence, and abundant consolation to all that sincerely obey the gospel,” (The Baptist Confession of 1677/1689, 3.7). God’s remedy to all that we observed in the previous section of our study is found in His sending of a Redeemer.

This Redeemer was not merely sent on a search and rescue mission for any who would, of their own good nature, choose Him. Rather, He was sent specifically to rescue His bride, those whom the Father had chosen in Him and given to Him for His own glory. As we study these great and glorious truths, let us pray that God would bring about in us the results listed in The Baptist Confession: praise, reverence, and admiration of God, along with humility, diligence, and abundant comfort.

Unconditional Election

Today, we arrive at simultaneously one of the most difficult doctrines of the Bible to teach to the modern mind and, yet, one of the most encouraging doctrines of the Bible. We do not say that this doctrine is merely doctrinal; it is biblical. Doubtless, the honest reader of the Bible must admit that the doctrine of election is a major reoccurring theme throughout its pages. The question is not whether or not the Bible teaches on election. The question is what the Bible means by election.

For starters, we ought to ask if the Bible’s teachings on the matter are clear or less clear. Scripture itself is clear in all matters to do with essential doctrines and essential practices. However, not all Scriptures are as clear to all or alike plain in themselves. Many doctrines require much digging and interpretation by other Scriptures.

“All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all; yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed and observed for salvation, are so clearly propounded and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of ordinary means, may attain to a sufficient understanding of them,” (Ibid., 1.7).

The question is whether the Bible’s teaching on election is clear or not so clear. The Reformed confessions make plain that the Bible’s teaching on election is laid forth in very clear and plain terms. There is no ambiguity as to the meaning it intends in its usage of the term. Some may attempt to distort its meaning and impose cryptic interpretations upon it, but they do so out of theological and philosophical impulses, not exegetical ones.

We find the doctrine of election in the apostles’ usage of several terms. For our study, let us focus on just three: chosen / elect, predestined, and foreknown. Let us take each of these terms in turn. First, the apostles tell us that we are chosen by God. Clearly, we have already established the necessity of our being chosen. As a result of the original guilt that is ours in Adam, the original sin we inherit from him, and the actual sin that we commit every day, none of us is deserving of God’s mercy and grace. We each have inherited an estate of sin and misery. We each deserve hell. Furthermore, none of us choose God, but we each follow slavishly after gods of our own making. Left to our own devices, we are the condemned ones who choose to remain as we are. If we are to be reconciled to God, He must intervene. He must choose either all or some upon whom to place His great mercy and grace.

What does the Bible mean when it uses the terms chosen and elect, though? First, it means that we are individually chosen of God. When a king or a people choose the high-ranking individuals who will lead their armies, they do not choose the whole nation for the task and then offer that any and all volunteers who step forward will have been chosen. When an officer is said to be chosen, that is an individual honor that is being bestowed (Exod. 15:4; Judg. 20:16). When God called out Israel (Deut. 7:6-7; Ps. 105:43), He did not claim to choose both Jacob and Esau and then leave it to them to choose whether they wanted to be His chosen people. The choice was His, and He set His love upon Jacob (Rom. 9:10-13).

We see this concept interspersed throughout our experience on this earth. No child likes to be chosen last for sports. When playing soccer or kickball, team captains are usually selected by the group. Then, the team captains go through and pick from the group each kid that they would like to have on their respective teams. The choice falls to the captains, not to the group. They do not each say, “I choose the group. Now, choose for yourselves.” The same is true in our understanding of adoption. In a family with six kids—three biological children and three adopted—the unique mark that falls upon the ones who were adopted is the fact that they were chosen by their parents. Out of all the other kids that might have been chosen from among the orphans that needed homes, their parents chose them. Children raised by their biological parents do not have this unique privilege.

As children of God, we each have the privilege of knowing that we were chosen in this way. “For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father,’” (Rom. 8:15; NKJV). Each person who is truly saved has been adopted by God, engrafted into His family, divinely chosen. Yet, it is important to note that the choosing occurs far prior to the receiving of the Spirit of adoption. As the Catechism states, we were elected “from eternity past.”

4just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will,” (Ephesians 1:4-5; NASB).

Here, we come to our second word touching election: predestined. We are told in Ephesians 1:5 that we were predestined to this adoption. That is what is meant when we are told that we were chosen before the foundation of the world. It means that God’s unique, choosing love was placed upon specific spiritual orphans, and He determined from eternity past the ones upon whom He would set His adopting love and the ones upon whom He would not.

Paul tells us that it was “In love” that we were predestined to this adoption. We must ask ourselves, then, what we know about the God who is said to have placed His love upon us. Does He learn anything? Does He adapt His eternal decrees to meet with new knowledge He has obtained from His observance of us? No. What God knows, He has known from all eternity. What He has decreed will come to pass. “Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure,’” (Isa. 46:10; NKJV). What we see, then, is that God’s love for us did not have a beginning. God determined before the foundation of the world, in eternity past, in His infinite, eternal knowledge, that He would set His love upon His elect. For this end, we have been predestined.

Here we come to our third term. What God has loved from eternity past He has loved because of His eternal, infinite knowledge. Thus, the apostles make clear that we are predestined of God precisely because we are foreknown of Him. Some have claimed that the foreknowledge of God means that He foreknows our choice of Him, and thus that He retroactively chooses us. Stop and think what this claim does to our doctrine of salvation, though. If we are chosen because of our choosing, we are ultimately chosen because of something in us. We have reason, then, for boasting. This is the first flaw in this interpretation of the term.

Secondly, this interpretation is flawed because our actions (such as choosing God) are nowhere to be seen in any of the texts that speak of God’s foreknowledge of His elect. Rather, we are told in Ephesians 1:4-5 that we are predestined to adoption in love. It is out of God’s adopting love, then, that we are each made children of God. In 1 Peter 1:2, Peter writes that we are chosen “according to the foreknowledge of God,” (NKJV). Nowhere is our choosing of God mentioned. Nowhere is our ability to muster up our own faith mentioned. Nowhere do we find any room for boasting in this verse. Rather, we are chosen precisely because of God’s foreknowledge.

The term for knowledge here is an intimate term denoting a special love that is placed upon the object. In verse 20, when Jesus is said to be foreknown (the verb form of the term used in vs. 2), we know that Peter means an intimate knowledge that the Father had of the Son in eternity. To know someone in the Bible is to have a close, personal, intimate connection. We are told that, when Adam knew Eve, she conceived and bore a son (Gen. 4:1). To be known of God, then, is to be set apart in His particular love.

We are set apart in His particular love for a particular purpose, though. According to the Catechism, we are elected for everlasting life. This means that our election is ultimately eschatological. It points us forward to the last things. It has its roots in eternity, and it secures our place in eternity. Thus, while election is not sufficient in and of itself to save us, it certainly is of utmost necessity in our salvation from the beginning all the way to end.

The Covenant of Grace

Here we come to a great contrast within the Catechism. The estate of man under Adam is a truly wretched estate. In Adam, due to his failure to keep the Covenant of Works, we inherit an estate original guilt and original sin and, as sinners, we actually sin and incur the wrath and judgment of God. We further inherit an estate of misery marked by all the pain and suffering of this world, death, and hell. In Christ the last Adam, due to His perfect obedience, we inherit an estate of salvation. All who are in Christ have Him, not Adam, as their covenant Head. This is what has come to be known as the Covenant of Grace.

A moment’s hesitation before moving forward is wise. Just what is a covenant? we might ask. According to Walter J. Chantry, a covenant is “a sovereignly given arrangement by which man may be blessed,” (Chantry, Covenant Theology: A Baptist Distinctive, pg. 91). Had Adam and his posterity remained faithful to that first covenant, man would have remained in an estate of holiness, innocence, and joy with all of the blessings of communion with God and abundant provision from His hand. That was the sovereignly given arrangement, but man chose the curse instead of the blessing.

In the Covenant of Grace, God initiates a far greater arrangement. Rather than relying on a finite, fallen man to provide our covenant obedience, all who are in Christ have a Mediator who has perfectly obeyed the Father on their behalf. Thus, they have been transferred from enslavement to the Law, which they could never fulfill, to freedom as sons of the Most High. They do not rely on their own power, nor even could they, but merely on the power of Christ to save. This reliance upon Christ is what the Bible simply and regularly calls faith or belief. Hence, the Covenant of Grace is a covenant of faith, and believers’ covenant, a credo-covenant.

20because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin. 21But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction,” (Romans 3:20-22; NASB; emphasis added).

This Covenant, in its ultimate fulfillment through the humiliation and exaltation of Christ, is what the Bible calls the New Covenant. All of the benefits of the Covenant of Grace were there from the Fall itself. Even in the issuing of the respective curses to the serpent, the woman, and Adam, God provided a promised Seed in which man might find salvation if he looked to Him and not to Adam (Gen. 3:15). Doubtless, as the firstborn, Cain was expected to be that promised seed, but he turned out to be a murderer (Gen. 4:1-8). Not only had Cain become a murderer, but his descendants proved to be unfaithful as well (Gen. 4:19-24).

God preserved His promise, though, through the line of Adam and Eve’s third son: Seth. At the birth of Seth’s first child, Enosh, it is recorded that men began to call upon the name of the Yahweh (Gen. 4:26). For several generations, the line of Seth continued to call upon the name of Yahweh. One of his descendants, Enoch, even walked so closely with God that he did not die, but was simply taken straight to be with God (Gen. 5:24), but not before he had a son. Eventually, however, this god-fearing line of Seth was enticed by the daughters of men, married them, and turned away from God (Gen. 6:1-3). By this generation, only one of Seth’s line was found to still be faithful to Yahweh: Noah. Remembering His promise to Adam and Eve, God destroyed all the world with a flood, but preserved the line of His promised Seed by granting Noah and his family safe passage on the ark (Gen. 6:13-9:1).

The promise of the Seed was further channeled through the line of Abraham and God’s promise to bless him and his Seed. As Sam Waldron explains in A Modern Exposition of the 1689 Baptist Confession, the Abrahamic Covenant and the Mosaic Covenant build upon one another such that the temporal, earthly blessings promised to Abraham are conditioned upon the covenant faithfulness of Israel under the Mosaic Covenant (Waldron, A Modern Exposition, pg. 108). The requirement of covenant faithfulness through obedience was only binding toward the end those temporal blessings, though (Gen. 12:1-3; 15:18-21; 17:1-8). Those who continued to look forward to the Seed (Gen. 15:1-7), as did Abraham, received a greater, eternal inheritance (Gal. 3:6-9; 15-29). Likewise, all who like Moses consider the reproach of Christ to be greater than the treasures of this world (Heb. 11:24-25) are heirs of a greater promise than those earthly, temporal land promises granted under the Mosaic Covenant.

The law, then, was given to the people of Israel under the Mosaic Covenant, but the law was not merely granted as a condemning principle. It operated instead as a condemning principle with a purpose: to render us hopeless and drive us to the Seed in whom we are saved only by mercy. Thus, the promises were granted to those of faith alone from the fall of Adam and Eve until this very day.

21Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God? May it never be! For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law. 22But the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe,” (Galatians 3:21-22; NASB).

So we see that, from Adam until now, salvation has always been all of grace. From Adam to Christ, that faith was in the promised Seed. From Abraham to Christ, the promise was bound up within a specific bloodline and, from Moses to Christ, it was largely to be found within specific borders and governed by specific laws. The temporal, earthly blessings of the covenant were furthermore granted to all who were within those borders and governed by those laws without respect to their own personal faith. At the first advent of Christ, though, all of those temporal scaffolds were discarded as unnecessary, and the Covenant of Grace broke through the borders and bloodlines.

Christ mobilized His people and gave them a new command, which is not really a new command: to be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth (Mt. 28:18-20; Acts 1:8; cf. Gen. 1:28; 9:1; 12:1-3; 17:3-8). This multiplication is a multiplication not of physical offspring, but of those who believe as Abraham believed (Gal. 3:7). Now, men of all stripes regardless of household, nation, or ethnicity, are being brought into the estate of salvation by the great and gracious covenant struck by God and conditioned upon the obedience of His Son alone. All praise and glory be to God alone!

A Little Time With The 1689: Day 133

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Day 133

Of Christ the Mediator.

Chapter 8, Paragraph 1.

…Unto whom he did from all Eternity give a people to be His seed, and to be by him in time redeemed, called, justified, sanctified, and glorified.

Scripture Lookup

Isaiah 53:10

John 17:6

Romans 8:30

Reflection

Christian, you are a gift.

I don’t mean in a “you’re such an awesome person” kind of way. After all, you are fallen in Adam, and although you are being made holy through the Holy Spirit’s work in you, you still have that lingering corrupt nature. We learned all about that back in chapter 7 of the Confession.

We also know that if we are Christians, we have been appointed to eternal life by God. Back in chapter 3, we learned that God chose a people out of His mere free grace and love. These people are redeemed by Christ, called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved. We read that already. So why repeat it in this chapter? Is anything different mentioned?

Adding to our knowledge of the saving work of Christ are these words: “unto whom He did from all eternity give a people to be his seed”. The Father, when He and the Son made the Covenant of Redemption, gave a people to the Son. All those who have believed in Christ are a gift from the Father to the Son. Jesus’ redeeming work on earth was not done so that some people might belong to Him. The Father ensured that there would be a people for Christ.

Christian, you are part of a people gifted to Jesus by the Father. You are born again to be His offspring, adopted by God. The attention to detail given concerning your salvation, as well as the salvation of the rest of the elect, leaves no room for error. Your salvation is secure; the Trinity has seen to it. You are a gift. Rejoice in that!

Questions to Consider

  • How secure is your salvation, if the Father has given you to Jesus?

A Little Time With The 1689: Day 66

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Nicholas Mutton [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Day 66

Of God’s Decree

Chapter 3, Paragraph 6.

” …neither are any other redeemed by Christ, or effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only.

Scripture Lookup

John 10:26; 17:9; 6:64.

Reflection

All the elect share the same journey of being called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved. They are redeemed by Christ. But this journey and this redemption are only for them. Anyone who does not have faith, anyone who does not share this path to salvation, are not redeemed by Christ. They are not elect. And they have no desire to be. As Sam Waldron writes, “Outside of electing mercy…no one wants to be saved.”

There is a scene in C.S. Lewis’ book The Last Battle where a pagan warrior, Emeth, is accepted at death by Aslan for the good he did in the name of his god, Tash: “If any man swear by Tash and keep the oath for the oath’s sake, it is by me that he has truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him.”

Lewis’ sentiment towards Emeth is shared by many. Our thoughts turn immediately to the pagan in a far-off land who never heard the Gospel. What about him? “There is good in all religions,” as someone said to me recently. It seems noble to have genuinely sincere Buddhists, or Muslims, or humanists obtain salvation. Yet the world’s view of nobility does not recognize the vileness of sin, especially the sin of unbelief. Christ must be known, for He alone is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. -Matthew 7:13, 14

Those redeemed by Christ will journey on the same path, through explicit faith in Him. In this there is no deviation, for “there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 1:12) May we be ever mindful of that in our witness.

Questions to Consider

  • Do you ever act as if those without Christ are still saved?

The New Birth in First Peter

With Sovereign Grace Baptist Church in San Angelo, TX., I have had the honor of preaching through the book of 1 Peter. This past week, we got as far as 2:17 in our study. Reflecting on the study thus far, and looking forward to where we are headed, I have come to the conclusion that everything in the first half of 1 Peter flows out of the reality of the new birth (1Pt. 1:3).

Outline:

As a result of the new birth:

1) …we have a new relationship with God (1:1-21).
2) …we have a new relationship with one another (1:22-2:3).
3) …we have a new relationship with unbelievers (2:4-3:17):

a) …unbelieving Jews (2:4-12).
b) …unbelieving civil authorities (2:13-17).
c) …unbelieving masters (2:18-20)

(In all this Christ is our example; 2:21-25)

d) …unbelieving husbands (3:1-6).
e) …unbelieving wives (3:7).

4) …we are to love as brothers (3:8-12).
5) …we will suffer (3:13-17).

Hopefully this serves as a helpful outline for those of you who would like to engage the book of 1 Peter a little deeper. I was almost done with the first chapter of the book before I realized this was what Peter was doing with his argumentation. Let me flesh it out a little further though for those of you who may be a bit skeptical of my approach here.

New Relationship with God

Peter starts by securing our new relationship with God in eternity past through the election of God’s people (1:1-2). Understanding how our new relationship with God is rooted in eternity past gives us great security. He will go one to explain how our relationship with God is also being kept secure in the here and now.

First, he points us to the new birth itself (1:3-9). We are born again to a living hope, an inheritance being kept in heaven for us who are being kept by God Himself. We rejoice in this new standing we have before God as heirs of the promise, even though now we are sojourners in a land where we are persecuted strangers. We have a home, a glorious family awaiting us in heaven. The hope and assurance of that great promise sustains us through our trials.

Second, we have this hope revealed to us this side of the incarnation. We are a privileged generation in that we have these great mysteries revealed to us. The prophets prophesied of the Messiah to come, the things He would suffer, and the glories that would follow, but they did not have as full a revelation as we now have.

Third, as a result of this new birth, this inheritance we have received as sons of God, we have a new relationship with Him. We are no longer children of wrath (Eph. 2:3) and sons of disobedience (Eph. 2:2; 5:6; Col. 3:6). Rather, we are now called children of obedience. As such, our behavior is to reflect what we truly are as a result of having born again into the family of God (1Pt. 1:13-21).

New Relationship with One Another

IMG_8323Also, as a result of our new birth, we have new brothers and sisters. We have brothers and sisters in the flesh, but flesh is like grass. “All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of grassThe grass withers, and the flower falls off, but the word of the Lord endures forever” (1:24-25a). By contrast, our inheritance and relationships with our new family are imperishable (1:22-25).

Our new relationships with one another yield new behaviors (2:1-3). As a result of our new birth, we now have familial obligations and familial motivations. We seek unity rather than division, and this new motivation effects how we live in fellowship with one another. We put aside devices of discord and cling to the One who builds up the body: Christ Jesus.

New Relationship with Unbelievers

As a result of our new birth, we have been grafted into true Israel (2:4-12). Paul taught that unbelieving Jews in the New Covenant have been broken off so that believing Gentiles might be grafted in (Rom. 11:17-24). This is part of a greater argument Paul made about his unbelieving brothers in the flesh starting in Romans 9. Peter refers to these unbelieving Jews as builders. We know he has unbelieving Jews in mind because he quotes the same verses Paul quotes in his argumentation in Romans 9-11.

We also know that he is referring to unbelieving Jews and Gentiles who are being grafted into true Israel because he applies uniquely Jewish titles to the New Covenant believing community. He describes the church as a temple being built and we are the stones and we are the priests, with Christ as the Capstone / Cornerstone. In fact, Peter calls us a royal priesthood and a holy nation. We ought not to take this to mean that we have replaced Israel, though. We have not. We have merely been grafted into true Israel. As such, true Israel has taken on a new shape.

As a result of the new birth, we also have a new relationship with civil government (2:13-17). Just as I would expect my kids to obey any adults with whom I would leave them, God expects us to honor the authorities He has placed in our lives. To disobey and dishonor the civil authorities God has established in our lives is to disobey and dishonor God.

We also have a new relationship to our masters as a result of the new birth (2:18-20). This has particular application in our day and age where people hold so loosely to their commitments to their employers. In Peter’s day, you entered into a contractual agreement with your master. It was much like joining the military. If a man were to come to a church and say, “I went AWOL from the military, because my sergeant was an unbeliever,” our proper response would be to tell him he needs to return and honor his enlistment. In the same way, Christian employees should not be flippant about jumping from job to job simply because their employers are unbelievers. We need to honor our commitments and show honor to our bosses.

Christ is our example in these things (2:21-25). When He was slandered and reviled, He did not revile in return. He willingly submitted to His persecutors and, as such, He was submitting to the will of God. We do not know the will of God for our lives or what He is orchestrating for our future, so we ought to humble ourselves and submit to the hardships we will receive as a result of our new relationship to the world.

Our new birth does not give us license to divorce or liberty to ill-treat our spouses (3:1-7). Rather, wives are to respect and submit to their unbelieving husbands. Husbands, are likewise to deal with their unbelieving wives in an understanding way and not to domineer them. When I was first introduced to the Doctrines of Grace, I tried to force-feed them to my wife. This is not how wives learn. We need to be patient with them and allow them to sit under the word and be convinced by God, not our forcefulness.

Love for the Brethren

Once again, Peter returns to our familial motivations / obligations (3:8-12). As a result of the new birth, we are to deal with one another with brotherly affections. This will result in certain heart motivations, which will then lead to changes in the way that we behave toward one another.

The Suffering to Follow

If we commit all of these things to memory and allow them to shape us and motivate us in how we walk in this world, we will have hardship. The world hates Christ. As those who are being made over in His image, they will hate us. We are to be ready to give a defense in the face of the trials that come our way. However, we must do so in fear and solemnity, recognizing that we represent our holy Father who is in heaven, and we have a brotherhood who will reap the consequences for our misdeeds in the flesh.

Calvinism: The Only Soteriology Consistent with Prayerful, Spirit-Dependent Evangelism

This semester and last semester, I took two evangelism classes. One was a single credit undergraduate class, and the other was a three credit Masters level class. At the end of these two rather enlightening and challenging classes, I still am convinced that anyone who holds to a form of Calvinism that pushes him away from evangelism rather than toward it either does not hold to a historic understanding of Calvinistic soteriology or is not living consistent with it.

I have held to this view strongly ever since having been introduced to Calvinism as a young Christian. However, I have never thought about whether or not a person who holds to a soteriological view other than Calvinism could practice a prayerful, Spirit-dependent evangelism in a way that is consistent with his soteriological perspective. I say “in a way that is consistent,” because there are many Christians who share their faith who are not Calvinists.

I understand that it is the default to say that it is indeed consistent for non-Calvinists to share their faith. As such, Calvinists are often, if not always, the ones who are put on the defensive in this regard. Not only am I arguing here that it is consistent for Calvinists to evangelize, but I am also arguing that Calvinistic soteriology is the only soteriological system consistent with the type of evangelism prescribed in the Bible. Any soteriological commitments other than Calvinism fall short in this regard and are thus inconsistent with biblical evangelism.

Prayerful, Spirit-Dependent Evangelism

The Holy Spirit’s work is essential in the work of evangelism. There is no corner of orthodox Christianity where this truth is denied. The question is, outside of a Calvinistic understanding of salvation, does the Holy Spirit truly have any power in evangelistic encounters? If He does, as nearly every evangelist will claim, who gives Him that power?

The reason these questions are important is that the natural response of most to the necessity of the Holy Spirit’s work is to push the importance of prayer. Hence, professors, pastors, and parachurch gurus have long pushed church-wide prayer meetings, prayer walks, and persistent personal prayer for the lost. The idea is, if the Holy Spirit is not working alongside you in your evangelism, you have no reason to expect your evangelism to result in the making of disciples.

Here, our problem with a non-Calvinistic approach to evangelism arises. In this instance, it certainly seems as though a form of election is taking place, though it is obviously not divine election. In a non-Calvinistic framework, Christians, though they may not be able to elect people to salvation, can certainly elect them to reprobation through their unfaithfulness in prayer. According to many who write on the subject, Christians decide how effective their evangelism will or will not be based on how persistent they are in prayer.

Calvinism, More Consistent

But Calvinists must admit that they also hold to a strong view of prayer as it relates to evangelism. Spurgeon wrote on many occasions of the need for more prayer in order to see the gospel advance in the world. However, the argument is not that prayer is unnecessary for evangelism to be effective. It certainly is. The argument I am here making is that Calvinists are the only Christians who can account for such an emphasis on prayer without doing injustice to their soteriological framework. Calvinists have the only soteriology that makes sense of such fervent prayer for evangelistic effectiveness.

When a Calvinist prays for the salvation of unbelievers, he believes that one of two things is the case. Either he is praying in accordance with the will of God and, thus, God will work through his prayers to effect the salvation of the unbeliever in question, or the desired effect is not God’s will, in which case the Calvinist rightly prays, “Nevertheless, not my will but Yours be done.” Two questions that naturally arise then are, What exactly is the non-Calvinist praying that God will do to make his evangelistic efforts more effective? and, Based on your answer to that question, why would his evangelistic efforts be less effective apart from prayer?

Divine or Human Reprobation?

The question in evangelism is not whether or not someone is elect or reprobate, but who elects them and who damns them. In virtually all non-Calvinistic frameworks, the lost seem to have no more choice in the matter than they do in the Calvinistic framework, unless they have heard the gospel from someone who is “prayed up.” At the end of the day, they still remain subject to powers outside their own control. If the Christian prays, he has a chance. If the Christian does not pray, kiss that chance goodbye. In other words, the Christian wields the power to withhold salvation from others, salvation the Lord had hoped to grant.

In the end, only a Calvinistic soteriology, which sees God working through secondary means like prayer and the proclamation of the gospel to accomplish His will, is consistent with prayerful, Spirit-dependent evangelism. All other soteriological frameworks are woefully flawed at this point. Those who hold to them can pray for the Spirit to make their evangelism more effective, and they can exercise a fair amount of dependence upon the Spirit, but none of them can account for the fact that they assume something outside of the hearers’ control that hinders them from repenting and believing.

The Christian’s prayerlessness, and subsequent lack of aid from the Spirit, works toward the hearers’ reprobation. The best such a person can say is, “At least it wasn’t God’s will that the hearers perish. It was simply not my will that they be elect.”

Conclusion

As a Calvinist, I would urge Calvinists and non-Calvinists alike to pray and ask God that the Holy Spirit would be at work in their evangelism. I certainly believe this to be biblical. I would particularly urge Calvinists to do this more fervently and persistently. It is only when Calvinists do not pray and do evangelism that I believe they are acting in a way that is inconsistent with their soteriology. I would also urge all who hold to a soteriological framework other than Calvinism to re-examine their beliefs to see if what I have written here is true. In the end, none of us pray enough or evangelize enough. So, if you think anyone who makes others reprobate is a monster, consider pointing the finger at yourself before you consider pointing the finger at the God represented in Calvinism.