Friday, September 26, 2003

Preach Only to the Elect?

19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matt. 28:19-20)

This, you no doubt recognize, is the Great Commission.

All but postmillennialists view it as either as a fool's errand or of being relatively modest in intent. That is, it is either a command from Christ at which the church will fail miserably or it has already been achieved on a scale that hardly warrants the adjective "Great". Postmillennialists are alone in looking for its success on a grand scale prior to the return of Christ.

However, that is not what I want to talk about. What I want to talk about is that it specifically says: make disciples of all nations.

Notice too, how evangelizing is always described as preaching the gospel. The number of passages is vast.

In contrast, while New Testament believers are described as converts, but we are not instructed to go forth and make converts.

Most evangelism is wrongheaded. It seeks the impossible and the uncalled for: to convince an unbeliever to believe, to aid and abet regeneration. That is not what we are instructed to do. We are supposed to glorify God by preaching the gospel, and to teach (make disciples).

One cannot make a disciple of an unregenerate person. And therein lies the kicker:

Evangelism is intended only for the regenerate, those already saved but still infants in their rebirth. They may appear to be unbelievers, but if God has not already quickened them from their spiritual death then they are corpses, and corpses will not respond to the gospel.

Of course, there is no way to tell if a person has been made alive. So the bottom line is still to preach the gospel (not push for a recital of the sinner's prayer) to everyone and anyone.

Of course this is anathema to Arminians (and Catholics, which are a subset thereof)—the very thought that evangelism is intended for the saved not the unsaved might send them writhing in paroxysms of agony.

What is surprising, however, is that is also appears to make many Calvinist's minds reel. And yet it is an obvious conclusion.

Sheep listen to His voice, not goats.

The gospel is for sinners, not the self righteous. Sinners are called, not the (self) righteous. Repentance is a gift that is granted; like faith it cannot be self-mustered, therefore those who recognize themselves as having sinned against God will respond, because they have already been made alive. The "righteous" will not listen and will not respond.

In Gerstner’s book Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth he describes a hypothetical encounter between a Christian and an inquirer. It goes something like this:

Inquirer: Did Christ die for me?

Christian: Truly, I do not know. But I do know that if you will believe on Him, His blood will wash away your sins.

Inquirer: But may I come now?

Christian: Of course.

Inquirer: But can I come?

Christian: What is stopping you?

Inquirer: I am. I do not find it in my heart.

Christian: Whose fault is that? Do you think God put unbelief in your heat? Whose unbelief is it?

Inquirer: Is it not His fault for not giving me faith?

Christian: I was not aware that God was indebted to you. If He is, then salvation is not by grace but by law and justice.

This may not be the way you choose to witness, but there is nothing wrong with it. Everything he says is supportable. Contrast this with the pervasive and presumptuous easy-beliefism offer of salvation by challenging someone to pray the sinner's prayer "sincerely".

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