If God Predestines People, Why Evangelize?

by Dale Partridge

When a Christian comes to understand the biblical view of the sovereignty of God and the doctrine of election, the first question that assaults the human mind is, “If God is sovereign over salvation and all people whom God has elected will be saved, why should I preach or evangelize?”

This is an understandable curiosity. After all, in John 6:37 Jesus says, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.” So, if all who are elected to come to Christ will come to Christ, what is the point of praying for the salvation of others or proclaiming the Gospel to a friend?

The Link Between Means and Ends

Our skewed understanding comes from a myopic view of redemption. In other words, we need to zoom out if we are to understand how God saves His children. The moment of redemption is neither isolated nor private. That is, while the Lord sovereignly inaugurates and directs redemption, He brings about the moment of conversion through the weaving together of various circumstances, conditions, and individuals.

Let me explain. Let’s say you came to Christ at a youth event in your hometown of Dayton, Ohio in 2010. On stage, was a man who flew in from Florida to preach a message on the New Birth and your need to be born again. Through his presentation of this Gospel doctrine, you were suddenly made aware of your sin and, for the first time, you cast your faith and trust on Christ alone for salvation.

If we look at this narrative for a moment, we will learn something quite amazing. According to Ephesians 1:4-6, not only did God predestine (before the foundation of the world) that you would receive the Gospel at this very moment (let’s call your conversion the end result) but He also predestined the putting together of that moment. That is, He orchestrated that youth event, the bringing about of that preacher from Florida, and the enabling of your schedule to attend (let’s call these the means).

In other words, God is not only sovereign over the ends of your salvation but also the means of your salvation.

I believe this concept is summed up nicely in Romans 8:28 which states, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Ultimately, we might think that predestination nullifies our involvement in evangelism but it’s just the opposite. God, through the prompting of the Holy Spirt, uses us as the means (think of preaching, giving someone a Bible, praying for a friend to come to Christ, writing an article about the Gospel, etc.) to fulfill His ends (the redemption of His elect).

A Privileged Integration

Now that we have answered the how to our question above, let’s talk about the why. That is, why should God’s sovereignty in salvation motivate us to evangelize? I believe this can be presented in three short points:

1. If God is Sovereign, We Don’t Need to be Forceful; We Need to be faithful: Too many churches look the numbers to validate their evangelistic success. Fortunately, we can leave this burden at the cross. That is, the pulpit doesn’t need forced persuasion, it needs faithful proclamation. Namely, because God is sovereign over the conversion of souls, we can alleviate our evangelism from the coaxing of immediate conversion-decisions and, instead, rest in the confidence of Christ to convert people in His timing.

2. If God is Sovereign, Our Evangelism Has a 100% Success Rate: In a culture where evangelism may lead people to walk away and even scoff at our words, we can have confidence in our preaching efforts. Because God is the Author of salvation (and not our evangelistic proficiency or presentation), our faithful proclamation of the Gospel will yield the exact result the Lord has willed.  

3. If God is Sovereign, We’ve Been Graciously Integrated into God’s Providence: While God could have accomplished His salvific work without us, He instead, has chosen to graciously involve us. As Romans 10:14-17 states, “How then are they to call on Him in whom they have not believed? How are they to believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher? But how are they to preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things… So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” By God’s grace, we have been privileged to participate in God’s providence by means of verbal proclamation. In other words, while even our best evangelism efforts can feel spiritually abandoned and unyielding, they are never independent—our Gospel ministry is God’s Gospel ministry—He is always there using our faithfulness to bring about His will.   

4. If God’s Sovereign, The Great Commission is Delight, Not Duty: If the previous three points were insufficient, you can find power in the joy of obedience. In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Our command as Christians, who have experienced the love of God in Christ through the Gospel, is to extend that message to all who will hear. Now, to those who think the results lay upon their shoulders, this work will feel like a duty. But for those who know that God alone determines the outcome, this work will be a delight. Ultimately, we may not know who will receive the message of our Great Commission preaching, but we do know that God is orchestrating all of it for His own glory.

Conclusion

J.I. Packer in his wonderful book Evangelism and Sovereignty of God reminds us of a simple truth. He says, “Evangelism is man’s work, but the giving of the faith is God’s.”[1] It is when we forget this fact that our Gospel efforts become distorted. We toil and labor for results in territory beyond our jurisdiction. But when we see salvation in the hands of the Almighty, not only can we revel in the wonder of our own redemption story, but we can, by His grace, faithfully participate in the redemption story of others.   


[1] J.I. Packer, Evangelism & The Sovereignty of God, (Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 1991), 40.

Dale Partridge is the Founder and President of Relearn.org. Dale finished his graduate studies at Western Theological Seminary and is now an M.Div candidate at The Master's Seminary in Los Angeles, California. He is also the author of several Christians books, the host of the Real Christianity podcast, and an elder and teaching pastor at the local house church in which he serves. He and his wife have three children.

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