Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Calvinistic motivation for evangelism

The teaching of John Calvin is often summed up in what is described as the five points of Calvinism. Most commonly this is known by the acronym of TULIP. Whilst these five doctrines are not all that Calvinists believe, it is what marks them out from Arminians, from Lutherans and from other branches of Christianity. These beliefs have come under many attacks from the opponents of Calvinism, one of those attacks being that some of them are a hindrance and a discouragement to evangelism. This view is encouraged by those who are hyper-Calvinist in their doctrine, and who do refrain from engaging in active evangelism. Yet in truth it is an accusation without any support; indeed far from discouraging evangelism, all five points should be an encouragement and a motivation to the Christian to evangelise the lost. In each one we do not simply have a dull theological concept, but a scriptural encouragement to spread the good news of the gospel, sure and certain that our work is not in vain.

Total Depravity
The doctrine of total depravity teaches that man is absolutely and totally fallen in all his being. He may not necessarily be as sinful as he could be, for sin manifests itself in different ways and in greater or lesser degrees depending on the individual. Yet in every part of man's being he is fallen; in body, in soul, in mind, in conscience. Such is the totality of man's sinfulness that there is nothing he can do to redeem himself. Spiritually he is a corpse, with no life, nor the means to give himself life. Nothing which he does can please God and without the Spirit of God working in him he will never seek after eternal life. Total depravity does not give us a man who is sick, but one who is 'dead in trespasses and sins'. He cannot help himself any more than a dead body can raise itself from the grave. Total depravity highlights to us the necessity for evangelism; man is lost without a hope and must be presented with the Saviour. The gospel is the only hope for mankind and unless it be preached then sinners will remain in their lost estate forever. This must surely give us motivation to reach our unsaved friends and family, knowing that they have no hope except they are told of Christ.

Unconditional Election
Since man is totally depraved and fallen in every aspect of his being then why has God chosen to provide redemption through his Son? Has he looked upon man and chosen to redeem those who have had exhibited potential? If this were true then none would be redeemed. God chooses to save men and women out of his own good pleasure, not because of any good or potential for good in them, but simply because he chooses to do so. We can freely evangelise all people knowing that God saves because he chooses to save, and knowing that from all eternity he has chosen out an elect people from every 'kindred and tongue and people and nation'. Since God has an elect people we can then be sure that our evangelistic efforts will not be in vain for there are those whom he has already chosen for everlasting life and who will respond to the gospel message. The truth that the elect have been ordained from all eternity and that they will surely be saved does not discourage us from evangelising, for God has not only ordained the ends but also the means. The elect will be saved, but only through the preaching of the gospel.

Limited Atonement
Sometimes known as the doctrine of particular redemption this teaches that the purpose of Christ's work on Calvary was not to make the salvation of all men possible, but to redeem the elect. The Arminian view of the atonement is that Christ offered a sacrifice equally for all men, whether they accept him or not. However the Calvinistic, and scriptural, view is that whilst the blood of Christ is sufficient to save every sinner who has ever lived, it is efficient only to save the elect. Arminianism casts doubt on the efficacy of Christ's blood, for it teaches that some for whom Christ died will not be saved. A limited atonement, or particular redemption, instead brings us encouragement in our evangelism by reminding us that Christ HAS provided salvation for a particular people, that the power of the blood of Christ extends to every single one of the elect, and that it is not lacking in any sense. Not all men will be saved, but every single one of the elect will be, for not one of those given to Christ shall be lost. There are a people ordained to everlasting life from all eternity and when the gospel is preached to them the power of that gospel will draw them unto Christ. We are not called to discern who are elect and who are not, only to faithfully preach the world.

Irresistible Grace
How can it be that the worst of sinners, caught up in all of the world's vices, with no thought or desire after the things of God can possibly respond to the call of the gospel? How can one who is dead to the message of redeeming grace possibly be stirred up to eternal life? It is only through the effectual call of the Holy Spirit that this is possible. The Shorter Catechism describes effectual calling as 'the work of God's Spirit, whereby, convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing our wills, he doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the gospel'. God's grace is irresistible, and when he speaks effectually to the sinner they must and will respond to the gospel. If it were at all possible for man to resist the grace of God when the spirit speaks effectually to his soul, then he would most certainly do so, and none would ever be saved. What a glorious truth it is that God's grace is irresistible. It is not our efforts, abilities or methods that will draw men and women to Christ, but the Spirit of God. We can therefore be confident that no matter what our shortcomings may be in seeking to witness to others, when the Lord effectually calls men and women unto himself, they will come.

Perseverance of the Saints
The Lord Jesus Christ says in John 6:37 that 'All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out'. Often we wonder if we will see lasting fruit from our efforts, will we see converts that grow in their faith and go on with the Lord or will they fall by the wayside. The Lord Jesus Christ says that all those who have been given to him, will surely come to him, and they will not be cast away. They will persevere in the faith. Those who are truly born again cannot be lost but will go on in the faith until that day when they see the Saviour face to face. Eternal security encourages the sinner to trust Christ and encourages us in evangelism as we can present him as the ever faithful one and as the bringer of a sure and lasting salvation. As we seek to win others we can have that confidence that those who come to Christ through our efforts, will certainly meet us in glory one day. Surely there can be no greater motivation and encouragement to evangelisation than that.

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